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Art in the Parks Program

Mayor John V. Lindsay, Louise Nevelson, Parks Commissioner August Heckscher in front of Night Presence IV, 60th St. & 5th Ave, 1972
Mayor John V. Lindsay, Louise Nevelson, Parks Commissioner August Heckscher in front of Night Presence IV,
60th St. & 5th Ave, 1972,
New York City Parks Photo Archive

In 1967, the City first demonstrated its commitment to public art, when Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs (then united as one agency) organized the group outdoor exhibit Sculpture in Environment. The intent was to use public space as an outdoor museum, letting works of art “loose in the city, to set them under the light of day where they intrude upon our daily walks and errands.”

In the intervening decades, a pair of significant trends emerged. Previously untapped public spaces became coveted outdoor galleries in which to display contemporary art, and the new forum provided a stage for emerging artists to display their work and reach wider audiences. Hundreds of artists have exhibited their works in New York City parks, demonstrating an astonishing array of styles, forms, materials and conceptions.

Giant Tinker Toys, Literary Walk, Central Park, 1968, New York City Parks Photo Archive
Giant Tinker Toys, Literary Walk,
Central Park, 1968,
New York City Parks Photo Archive

Their works range from steel constructions to installations made from an assortment of organic biodegradable media. These public installations have helped launch careers, and they have also showcased the work of long-established artists.

Parks & Recreation has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Through collaborations with a diverse group of arts organizations and artists, we bring to the public both experimental and traditional art in many park locations. The works may be displayed in prominent flagship parks, neighborhood parks and playgrounds, and traffic islands. Temporary installations are defined by an exhibition period of less than one year, typically remaining on view for three to six months.

The Outdoor Gallery: 40 Years of Public Art in New York City Parks

This 48-page retrospective, published in conjunction with a 2007 Arsenal Gallery exhibit of the same title, provides an overview of the styles and trends in public art in New York City?s parks between 1967–2007.
Download the Publication (PDF, 3MB)

Related Video

Ephemeral Art

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Video: Mad Sq Art
Video: Calder in City Hall Park
Video: Socrates Sculpture Park

Related Information

Temporary Public Art History on the Park Avenue Malls (PDF, 166 KB)

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