Project Background

AbecedariumNYC is a web platform that builds a community of creative minds through their exploration of New York City via the lens of twenty-six unusual and intriguing words. Artists and non-artists alike are encouraged to share their New York experiences through images, text, sound, and video using these words as a guide for inspiration.

Beginning in 2000, filmmaker and Abecedarium:NYC co-director Lynne Sachs became intrigued by the concept of an “abecedarium”, a book designed to take a child through the first steps of reading. As a new mother, Sachs cluttered her young daughters’ play area with these age-old formulae for learning: A is for apple; D is for dog; X is for xylophone. She wasn’t completely satisfied, however, because, for the most part, these ABC books functioned more like a conventional cultural literacy test than intriguing introductions to the world of words.

Over the course of the next few years, Sachs examined the work of other artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians and poets who had created their own original interpretations of the alphabet (See History of the Artist Abecedarium). During an artist residency at the MacDowell Colony, she read the entire Oxford Dictionary as part of her research for the project which would later intertwine a meditation on words and their meanings with an exploration of New York City. Sachs intentionally chose words that she did not already know, that fascinated her etymologically and that sparked her imagination as an artist.

In 2008, The Reserve Collection of Film and Video of the New York Public Library commissioned Sachs to create a multi-media online abecedarium.  The Reserve Collection is known both nationally and internationally for its forty-year history of exhibiting avant-garde film and video to the public. Through the NYPL’s initiative, The New York State Council on the Arts provided a production grant for Abecedarium:NYC.

Abecedarium:NYC Phase 1 was originally created as a Flash-based project in 2008 during the heyday of webart when innovation in graphics and interactivity were at their height. Check out this early iteration of Abecedarium:NYC here ( In 2018, Sachs and Choi collaborated with artist filmmaker Rebecca Shapass on updating our site as

Lynne Sachs + In Choi + Susan Agliata
Programming and Design: In Choi + Susan Agliata
Content and Design Consultation: Rebecca Shapass