By Daniel Katzive
Public sculpture has returned to Riverside Park South for the first time in five years. Two sculptures have been erected near the river at around West 61st Street, as a result of a collaboration between the Art Students League and the New York City Parks Department.
The sculptures have been in place since earlier this month, but a public ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon to formally unveil them. The artists were on hand to present their works.
The northernmost sculpture is “Life Dance,” by Susan Markowitz Meredith, composed of three intertwined, painted, steel spirals reaching towards the sky. Meredith told the group, “each spiral, with its progression of leaf-like steps, serves as a kind of metaphor for growth. As the different spirals intertwine, they suggest [the] connectedness of us all, for nothing exists in isolation.”
A bit further south lies a sculpture called “Hope,” by Helen Draves. It is shaped like a surgical mask, itself comprising smaller masks, each inscribed with quotations related to the pandemic. At the upper right, the masks evolve into birds taking flight. “The masks are symbols of the darkness and suffering of sickness and gradually transform into blue birds,” Draves explained. “The blue birds are symbols of hope and freedom… soaring into the sky. This is a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit.”
Welcoming the exhibit to the park and representing the mayor at the ceremony, New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Laurie Cumbo said, “This is like the trifecta of what we all need in our lives. We need beautiful spaces. We need public art. We need our parks. This is one of the rare times when you have them all in one space.”
According to the NYC Parks website, the two sculptures will remain in place until May of next year.