By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Madison Square Park is getting a new interactive space with the installation of the park conservancy’s next outdoor exhibition this coming spring. Artist Josiah McElheny designed the “Prismatic Park,” which is composed of painted wood and prismatic glass, and is designed with the idea of being an outdoor studio space for musicians, dancers and poets.
A blue curvilinear sound wall offers acoustics for experimental music, a circular and reflective green floor will beckon dancers while and a red roofed pavilion will be built for the use of poets.
Nonprofit art organizations Blank Forms, Danspace Project and Poets House are collaborating with the Madison Square Park Conservancy to help resident artists create new work within the public spaces. McElheny designed the piece specifically so that it would be interacted with and not just looked at, and he said that he hopes it will be used not only for performances but also as a rehearsal or impromptu workshop space.
McElheny’s piece was inspired by activism in public spaces and the importance of parks for political protests throughout the world, such as Tahrir Square in Cairo, Zuccotti Park in New York and Gezi Park in Istanbul. Park goers are invited to interact with the piece during the installation as well and a weekly free newspaper with images from the work of participating artists will be available. There will also be space on the conservancy’s website for participants to reflect on how public spaces can impact civic values by encouraging chance meetings and creative expression.
“This project takes the impetus from recent activism in public parks and squares, but its core comes from an idealistic, almost utopian, concept of the optimism for the shared responsibility of a public site by people and the artist’s role in solidifying that contract,” the park’s art director Brooke Kamin Rapaport said of the installation.
“By making three stunning prismatic glass works and by partnering with three nonprofits, McElheny is positing his works as platforms for questions of how sculpture can revamp other disciplines.”
McElheny, who works in other mediums besides sculpture including performance, film and writing, said that this project is a collaborative effort with him, participating artists and the park, as well as New York residents and tourists who contribute.
“One of the most urgent societal issues today is, how can we best share what little public space is left to us,” McElheny said.
“(This installation) attempts to provide a partial answer to this question by suggesting that the arts can expand existing public spaces through the visionary efforts of individuals and small groups, creating works of art, dance, music and poetry in the middle of our city.”
The installation will debut on June 13, 2017 and will be on view through October 8, 2017.
The current installation, roller-coaster-shaped sculpture “Big Bling” by Martin Puryear, debuted this past May and was supposed to run through next January, but the exhibit was extended through April 2, 2017.