§ NYC Cultural Affairs Guided Tour of Harlem Public Art

Willie BirchI was lucky enough to get on the list for #NYCultureonWheels and join NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (NYCDCR) Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Kendal Henry, NYCDCR Director of the Percent for Art Program, artist Gabriel Koren, Eugenie Tsai, the Brooklyn Museum’s Curator of Contemporary art (and Tom’s wife), and a pack of public art lovers. We toured Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) public art and NYCDCR Percent for Art Program pieces. In addition, we were joined by Marcus Garvey Park Alliance President Connie Lee who showed some wonderful work within this underappreciated Harlem park.

It was great to meet Commissioner Finkelpearl and see Kendal again, but I met some new wonderful and interesting people too. Artist Jorge Luis Rodriguez was so gracious and we saw two of his pieces. Connie Lee was a great tour guide. I also chatted with a delightful young woman from The Studio Museum of Harlem and I can’t believe I’ve forgotten her name!


While writing this up I found a fascinating NYT article on Alison Saar’s solemn and captivating piece and why Harriet Tubman is defiantly heading south.

I also found a rather tragic but unfortunately way too common story of Gabriel Koren whose Frederick Douglass sculpture at the northwest corner of Central Park began our tour. The 2015 article describing her loss of studio space, Priced Out of Brooklyn, a Sculptor Seeks a New Studio to Rent, is even more relevant today as I watch and read about the loss of space for artists of all types in nearby Gowanus. Reports like this seem to be in my inbox on a weekly basis.

Back to regularly scheduled programming……Here’s a few pics of the public art, murals, sculptures, and installations we saw on the walk. Click on any image for a slideshow.

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