Unleash your inner artist at Manhattan parks this summer

Poet MC Hyland offered a bookmaking workshop last week at Madison Square Park. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

This time of year, even if you don’t get to go on vacation there are still some good times to be had thanks to free summer programming at a number of local parks. This is nothing new of course but this year the event organizers with The Madison Square Park Conservancy have changed things up by making some of its activities interactive.

The programming kicked off recently with the installation of “Prismatic Park,” a sculptural staging area where dancers, poets and spoken word artists have been invited to perform on the lawn. Then last week MC Hyland, a visiting poet was in the park for a few days to hold an event in which park goers were encouraged to stroll around with someone else and then have each person write something to give to their companion. The writing exercise actually began more specifically with participants instructed to write a poem, but Hyland, upon noticing people’s faces freeze at the thought of poetry, then began telling them to write anything.

“I understand for many people poetry is a scary word,” said Hyland, who adapted the activity based on her own habit of leading walks and then writing a poem for participants.

Participants at a Draw Your Park event

The program also had other offshoots. When a T&V reporter stopped by last Thursday afternoon Hyland was hosting an informal book making workshop for passersby with all the materials for a notepad sized paperback available by the north fountain. But creative types who missed this opportunity should mark their calendars since additional craft-type workshops are still yet to come this summer at city parks.

The next one is Draw Your Park Day on July 20 from 5-7 p.m., also at Madison Square Park, by the north fountain with the next one on September 21. Materials such as paper, color pencils and markers will be provided. The event is open to all ages though it seems to be especially popular with kids.

Speaking of kids’ events, the Madison Square Park Conservancy also holds weekly Art in the Park workshops for children on Tuesdays through July. See T&V’s Around & About section for details.

For adults, free figure drawing classes have been scheduled weekly at Battery Park City since May and will continue through October 25. The “Figure Al Fresco” series is held on Wednesdays from 2:30-4:30 p.m. At the two-hour event presented by The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, artists of all levels are invited to improve their skills by sketching a different model each week, who’ll be doing both short and long poses. An artist/educator will be on hand to offer suggestions and give critiques throughout the class. All drawing materials are supplied. This class takes place in South Cove near Battery Place and Second Place and is for participants 18 and up. For more information, visit the website.


A group called the Urban Sketchers frequently hosts sketching gatherings at parks, gardens and other outdoor places. Recent venues include Madison Square Park, the Botanical Gardens and the park underneath the East Riverfront Pepsi sign. However, based on the history of the group’s blog and Instagram page, sketching sessions are only announced a few days in advance. To stay on top of the schedule, visit nyc.urbansketchers.org or follow them on Instagram @nycurbansketchers. Hosts of events vary and the blog makes clear the group is aimed at being supportive of fellow artists. Most of the listings note that there are no fees and participants of all levels are welcome.


For those who enjoy painting or would like to learn while being inspired by the surrounding nature, two upcoming classes are scheduled to take place, both on July 22, at Central Park. This program is being organized by the Chelsea-based Speak Italy NYC. The first “Paint in the Park” class runs from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and the second is from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 through Eventbrite and there are no refunds. The cost includes the necessarily materials and ticket holders will receive an email with the meeting point. For more information, visit speakitalynyc.com.

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