Art in Odd Places returns

Performer Lulu Lolo will bless immigrants as Mother Cabrini in this year’s festival, which has more performance art installations than visual ones. (Photos courtesy of AiOP)

By Sabina Mollot

Art in Odd Places, the annual outdoor array of performance and visual art that takes over the length of 14th Street for several days, is back. This year, the festival is running from Thursday, October 12 to Sunday, October 15 with a reception on Friday, October 13 from 6-8 p.m., also outdoors, on 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

This is the festival’s 14th year and it’s now been on 14th Street for a decade with the location having been chosen because of its site as a crossroads to a few different neighborhoods.

In keeping with tradition, each year’s festival has a theme and this year’s is “sense,” which a press release explains is supposed to “welcome gestures that aim to awaken dormant perceptions.”

The festival’s 60-plus artists have chosen to interpret it in many different ways, according to one of AiOP’s three curators, Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful.

“Ways that are sometimes literal, and in ways that are metaphorical,” he said.

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Rose crystal tower goes up in Union Square

Tower as seen from the west (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A new tower has just risen in Union Square, but unlike when this normally happens, there will be no howling about zoning and affordability.

The tower is actually a sculpture made out of nearly 350 rose-colored crystals and it debuted on Friday morning at an island east of Union Square Park.

“Rose Crystal Tower” was the creation of Dale Chihuly, whose career in the arts has spanned 56 years. It was done in partnership with Marlborough Gallery, the Union Square Partnership and the Parks Department, and will remain on view through October 2018.

At a ceremony unveiling the sculpture, which will be lit up at night through 16 lighting fixtures, Parks Commissioner Bill Castro noted the installation was part of the 50th anniversary for the city’s program of putting art in public spaces. At this time, over 1,300 artists have had their work on display through the program in 2,000 installations.

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Artists will interact with installation at Madison Sq. Park

A sculpture by Josiah McElheny will become a performance space. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the arrival of Madison Square Park’s new summer installation next Tuesday comes a handful of artists who have created performance pieces to interact with the work in week-long residencies. Prismatic Park, a sculpture by artist Josiah McElheny made of glass tile and wood creating individual performance spaces for the artists, offers a translucent sound wall for experimental music, a reflective floor for dance and a vaulted pavilion for poetry.

Artist MC Hyland, who will be doing the first poetry residency for the project from July 4 to 9, won’t be using the space for typical poetry readings but decided to expand on a project she’s already been working on that is more interactive than straight performance. Hyland has a degree in book arts in addition to an MFA in poetry, and when she went back to school for English literature recently, she started reading more poetry by William Wordsworth, who wrote some of his work about walking and talking with friends.

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Art in Odd Places founder kicked out of residency program

Artists Samantha Hill and Ed Woodham outside their temporary apartment in Macon, Georgia (Photo courtesy of Hill and Woodham)

Artists Samantha Hill and Ed Woodham outside their temporary apartment in Macon, Georgia (Photo courtesy of Hill and Woodham)

By Sabina Mollot

Ed Woodham, the founder of the Art in Odd Places festival, an event that takes over the length of 14th Street each October with visual and performance art pieces, has been kicked out of a community arts program that he now believes was aimed at promoting gentrification.

Woodham and another artist he partnered with on an artist-in-residence project, Samantha Hill, said that last Tuesday they were given the boot from this program — and their temporary home — when they failed to do publicity for it. This was after just 21 days of what was supposed to be a three to four-month residency in Macon, Georgia.

The problem, explained Woodham, is that when he agreed to the job, it was touted as a way to engage local residents in Macon and cultivate arts programs in an attempt to revitalize the area. However, as he and Hill began to speak with the residents in the neighborhood where they were staying, they began to wonder if their real function was to “art wash” or push the area as an arts hub at the expense of the existing residents. One reason they suspected this, said Woodham, was that Macon’s black residents were telling them they felt they hadn’t been included by the Macon Arts Alliance, the organization spearheading the Mill Hill program.

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The public in public art

Fata Morgana is now on view at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Fata Morgana is now on view at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Martin Friedman  Senior Curator, Madison Square Park Conservancy

Public outdoor sculpture is a communal activity. During periods of art installation, visitors to Madison Square Park can watch a project unfold over days and weeks. People discuss their perceptions and ask questions of me, my colleagues at Madison Square Park Conservancy, the install crews, and the presenting artist. Oftentimes, park goers watch this process with a sense of wonderment and pride; I have seen groups of neighbors applaud an artist at key moments during a temporary work’s on-site creation. Once complete, the public role in public art is further revealed as people interact with the piece by walking around the sculpture, taking their lunch next to the work or considering the merits of the project in conversation with co-workers, friends and family.

Creating outdoor sculpture in an urban oasis like Madison Square Park is unlike any other art experience. In preparation for major shows, museums and galleries draw the curtain for behind-the-scenes activity. When the curtain is pulled back, an indoor exhibition is complete and camera-ready. There is great theatricality on the opening day. By contrast, in constructing public art in real time right before your eyes, people view almost cinematic progress as a sculpture is made.

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Flatiron snowmen are not what they seem

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza having become a hotspot for businesses looking to promote themselves through events and displays, a more recent use of the space at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue — as the home to a group of 12 snowmen — feels like a breath of fresh air, albeit a below freezing one with a blast of slush courtesy of passing cars.

But upon taking a closer look at the multi-sized Frostys, passersby have been discovering that they aren’t made of snow at all, but marble, and are part of a city-organized art installation. The snowmen are in fact “Snow Monsters,” designed by artist Peter Regli as part of his “Reality Hacking” series of exhibits.

The snowmen, even up close, look pretty close to the real thing, as they’re built to show various stages of melting and are different sizes. They also are all positioned to face south towards the Flatiron Building across the street. They were fabricated in Da Nang, Vietnam, by the Hánh family, who specialize in crafting traditional marble statues for Buddhist temples.

The installation was commissioned by the Department of Transportation, which is working alongside the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

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Art in Odd Places returns for 10th year

By Sabina Mollot

An app of an alternate reality on 14th Street, created by John Craig Freeman, will be one of the featured works in the annual Art in Odd Places festival, running from October 9-12. (Photo courtesy of John Craig Freeman) An app of an alternate reality on 14th Street, created by John Craig Freeman, will be one of the featured works in AiOP. (Photo courtesy of John Craig Freeman)

An app of an alternate reality on 14th Street, created by John Craig Freeman, will be one of the featured works in AiOP. (Photo courtesy of John Craig Freeman)

Art in Odd Places, the annual art festival that’s been known to take over the length of 14th Street with site specific installations and performances, is returning soon for the 10th time.

This time, the event has been shortened to four days (it’s normally a week or longer), which, AiOP founder Ed Woodham said was to make it more concentrated so no one can miss it.

“The majority of the audience is people who come across it unexpectedly,” Woodham said. “It’s one of those magic New York moments.”

The event will run from October 9 to 12 along 14th Street from Avenue C to the Hudson River, with the kickoff celebration on Friday, October 10 from 6-9 p.m. at the entrance of Campos Plaza (on 14th Street between Avenues B and C). There will also be a few installations in other locations throughout the city, dubbed by organizers as “free agents.”

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