From historic monuments and memorials to contemporary rotating exhibits, Rockaway’s parks have been host to artworks of distinction and community pride and serve as a great introduction to the range of public art in NYC Parks across the city.
More than 1,000 public monuments are in the permanent collection overseen by NYC Parks Department of Art & Antiquities and each year dozens of outdoor temporary works of public art are exhibited, making Parks New York’s greatest public gallery—and it’s all free. With the recent installation of community supported murals on the Jersey barriers forming the pedestrian and bike lanes along Shorefront Parkway, we would like to offer a reminder about past and present public artworks in Rockaway and elsewhere in the City.
At Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 94th Street stands the peninsula’s oldest sculpture, a pensive bronze effigy of a World War I infantryman that honors the 17 servicemen from the local community who paid the “supreme sacrifice” during World War I. Dating to 1927, the “doughboy,” as he is known, was crafted by Joseph Pollia, who also sculpted the General Sheridan statue in Greenwich Village, and its pedestal was designed by William Van Alen, architect of the Chrysler Building. Additional monuments that pay tribute to those lost can be found in the community including the Rockaway Women’s Veterans Monument by Eileen Barry across the street from the “doughboy,” at 94th Street, Freddy Rodriquez’s Flight 587 Memorial at Beach 116th Street and the Boardwalk, and Tribute Park on the bay side at Beach Channel Drive at Beach 116th, which is marked by a salvaged iron beam from the World Trade Center and a large medallion.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy many artists eagerly brought relief in the best way they knew how. MoMA PS1’s VW Dome 2 acted as a community center that offered arts and neighborhood programming. Architectural firm Situ Studio’s Heartwalk created a dynamic sculpture that injected a new life into salvaged pieces from the damaged boardwalk.
These days, city residents can find public art exhibitions in all five boroughs. In Queens, one of the best spots is Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, which offers rotating exhibitions year round. Their annual Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition opens September 8th from 2:00-6:00 p.m. Be sure to enjoy one of their many other programs on your visit—where else can you join outdoor yoga amongst works of art?
A collection of eleven artists showcase a playful approach to art in Lightness of Being in City Hall Park. Organized by the Public Art Fund, the show includes oversized vegetables that act as benches, a heavily warped John Deere tractor and on Fridays, you can see Ugo Rondinone’s humorous performance piece: a large, ostentatious circus clown lounging in the park.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can take the Staten Island Ferry to Tappen Park and see Karlis Rekevic’s cast plaster sculpture All-Too- Fami-liar Tangle, composed of enlarged architectural elements inspired by the buildings that surround the park.
With more than 30 exhibitions currently on view in Parks, the Art in the Parks program encourages artists to bring their artwork out of their studio and into to their community. In particular, after the successful exhibition of the VW Dome 2 at the parking lot plaza, Parks hopes more artists will propose temporary artworks for this highly visible, central location in the Rockaway community. If artists are interested in exhibiting their work on parkland, they can apply to the Art in the Parks program. Guidelines for proposals, a list of current exhibitions and a history of the program can be found on the Art & Antiquities website: www.nyc.gov/parks/art.
Go Park! Jonathan Kuhn is the Director of Art & Antiquities for NYC Parks and Jennifer Lantzas is NYC Parks’ Public Art Coordinator.