Artistic Splendor Unveiled: Riverside Park Welcomes Two Captivating New Sculptures

Both works of art invoke feelings of hope, growth, and resilience, and address our emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic.

| 24 Jul 2023 | 03:23

On a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, two new sculptures were unveiled at Riverside Park South. Within the framework of “Works in Public,” a cherished and enduring collaboration between the Art Students League of New York, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Riverside Park Conservancy, two magnificent sculptures have graced the park’s landscape.

The captivating artworks will delight park visitors and art enthusiasts alike, remaining on display until July 2024, as part of this remarkable artistic initiative.

Both works invoke feelings of hope, growth, and resilience, and address our emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic. Life Dance, designed by Susan Markowitz Meredith, is composed of three intertwining, colored steel tubes, with attached plexiglass steps, that rise 11 feet into the air.

“Each spiral of the sculpture, with its progression of leaf-like steps serves as a metaphor for growth,” Meredith said. “Life Dance reminds passersby of our interdependence, even in the midst of our many differences.” Meredith added that in designing public art, “you really have to let it go. It steps away from the individual artist, and it has its own life now.”

Hope, created by artist Helen Draves, sits several yards away, and, like its counterpart, is designed to serve as a “reminder of how art can facilitate healing and foster connection.”

Her sculpture, a supersized steel mask adorned with smaller resin masks that morph into flying bluebirds, includes symbols of both “sickness and healing.”

The birds are a reference to the folded paper cranes that provided Draves, who was born and raised in South Korea, solace in her youth. With Hope’s use of iconic cultural touchpoints, Draves said she wanted to remind viewers of art’s ability to “kindle and rekindle a vital optimism for our future.”

Temporary commissions like these, said Merrit Birnbaum, president and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy, “bring something new into a space that people frequent” and help visitors “appreciate their surrounding environment in a new way.”

Laurie Cumbo, the city’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, gave an impassioned speech at the unveiling, invoking the “economic, healing, educational, and public safety benefits” of public sculptures like Life Dance and Hope.

“We need beautiful spaces, we need public art, and this is one of the rare spaces where you have it all in one place,” she added.