The above quote is from a research study of Durham, North, Carolina parks, but it could just as well have been for some of the parks in my neighborhood. Why are parks underutilized? I suspect it's because except for small children many of our NYC parks tend offer few if any activity options except for sitting on a bench. .
What follows is a low cost idea to both help activate our parks and at the same time transform them from passive recreation parks sitting parks into active recreation park-simply by adding artwork to them!
In a moment I'll discuss how but first, are you familiar with Fringe Festivals?
-A Fringe Festival has lot of "fringe" performances, happening at the same time, that alone would probably not get many people attending them. But by banding them together as part of a Fringe Festival their attendance increases dramatically. In a Fringe Festival "The Whole is more then the sum of its parts."
All of the pins in this map represent a park or other public space. What about coordinating the showing of artwork in as many of these parks as agree to it. Then advertise an Art Walk connecting these spaces together. This then becomes Like a Fringe Festival but here "The Whole is more then the sum of its parks."
This should work in any neighborhood willing to connect its parks together this way.
-Art exhibits can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood, so that one exhibit can be shown in multiple neighborhoods
-Communities can also set up their own totally local Art Walks
I've talked to a number of artists who have studios in the Chelsea Art District, who are interested in making this happen in Chelsea.
This is from page 24 Community Board 4 statement of district Needs 2016:
The Board also encourages NYEDC and the Parks Department to do more to advocate for artists and art businesses in the district. NYEDC initiatives could mirror those taken in the internet, film and fashion industries, promoting artist incubators with physical loft and/or studio space where artists are vetted by a panel of community leaders and leading arts organizations. NYEDC could also encourage the reservation of booth space for artists at street fairs and in parks within the district to encourage exposure to the district’s cultural heritage at the highly trafficked and popular events, like the Ninth Avenue Street Fair and River to River Festival.
Initially exhibiting could happen at
West Chelsea Arts Building Galleries and Studios 508 West 26th Street
Penn Station South Park 26th between 8th and 9th Ave
Worth Square Park 5 Avenue @ 25th Street (located in community board 5)
West Chelsea Arts Building open studio/gallery shows
Penn Station Park
Worth Square Park
Exhibits for 2 weeks or less are easier to create. Longer exhibits must go through a more complex vetting procedure. See more on NYC Art in the Parks Rules here
By holding these exhibits at the same time as open studio weekends, they can be used to drive traffic to the open studio shows.
Community board 4 in NYC has shown interest in supporting art in its district...
The importance of Art Walks
Several years ago, the NYC Department of Health came up with a great idea "Make NYC Your Gym".
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and Make NYC Your Gym touted walking in your neighborhood as a really good way to get your exercise. Great idea. Trouble was it was a limited duration campaign, and it was citywide as opposed to local targeted. It also considered walking and exercise to be its own reward.
Art Walks are meant to offer viewing art works as the reward for walking. By changing exhibits, there will constantly be new reward offerings. By exhibiting the works of your community artists, it will localize what is occurring..
Rather then make NYC Your Gym, here we are talking about Make Chelsea Your Gym, Make Flatbush Your Gym,etc...
Local Chelsea groups that can exhibit in an Art Walk include...
Schools-FIT, SVA, Parsons, Pratt, High School of Fashion Industries,
Local area artists
Library Art Programs
Longer Street Lines
I also have a proposal for a River to River 26th Street Line. Rather then a permanent "Street Line" this could occur as a special event several times a year, and coordinate exhibits across the east west access of Manhattan If it would be possible to connect this with Chelsea's High Line it would connect an East West Art walk (the 26th Street Line) with a north south Art walk (The High Line)
26th Street Line Map link
26th Street Lime Locations link
Actually if the 26th Street Line works, temporary east west "Street Lines" could be set at different times throughout Manhattan, connecting parks on an east west into walking trails, through art exhibits. I am suggesting the 26th Street Line as a temporary Street Line, some Street Limes might be permanent( though their exhibits should be temporary)
Communities can set up exhibits themselves or partner with companies like ArtBridge who gave set up banners in parks such as NYC's Prospect Park.
Exhibits may be mounded on banners corrugated plastic or other temporary exhibit medium