Astoria Heights Playground

Local Artist Adds Public Art To Astoria Heights Park, Queens

Friday, May 1, 2015
No. 37

On Display from May 2015 – November 2015

NYC Parks and the Friends of Astoria Heights Park are pleased to present a temporary installation of ceramic tiles by Astoria artist Penelope Eleni. In ten tiles, Eleni illustrates a story about her visit to local cultural hub Socrates Sculpture Park with her children. The work will be on view in Astoria Heights Park from May 2015 through November 2015. A celebration will be at the park’s playground on May 30, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to commemorate Eleni’s installation and a new community mural.

Penelope Eleni’s artwork is inspired by motherhood, exploration, adventure and the wonder of wandering around New York City with three little children. In 2010 Eleni wrote and illustrated the story Halloween Harvest Festival, which she transferred to ceramic tiles in 2015 for public display. In the story, the artist brings her daughters to the park for the annual fall event where they meet a man in a funny hat, see dogs in costumes, dance to music, and play with other children before they fall asleep on their mother’s lap after a fun-filled day. The tiles, measuring 12” x 12”, are adhered to the surface of a low wall made out of cinderblocks that surrounds the park’s Butterfly Garden at 30th Road and 46th Street. Additional plants will be added to the blocks’ central voids, enhancing the horticulture in the new garden.

After Eleni had three children in less than two years, she found that her previous options and resources as a ceramicist no longer existed. She did not have an outside studio and could not work with messy clay in her kitchen with three toddlers under foot, and everywhere she went she was accompanied by three babies in a big triple stroller. However, she found that these restrictions did not hinder her creativity, but instead transformed her ceramic sculpture into an evolved form of visual storytelling. Eleni’s audience shifted from adult gallery-goers to children and families. She continues to share stories with her children and has broadened her mission to create narrative artwork like that on view in Astoria Heights, which communicates with children and instructs joyful lessons about poetry, New York City and the arts.

Penelope Eleni lives and maintains an artist studio in Astoria, NY. She is a former professor of art and former elementary school art teacher. Eleni received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Rutgers University; a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University; and her Master of Fine Arts in ceramics from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Moreover, she has studied ceramic art internationally in Mexico, South Korea and Greece. In 2014, Penelope Eleni won a grant from the Queens Council on the Arts to create a public ceramic tile installation. She donated the completed artwork to the Friends of Astoria Heights Park in Queens NY. She is a mother of three young children (an older son and twin girls).

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Friends of Astoria Heights Park is a group of neighbors who are committed to making Astoria Heights Park a beautiful, clean, safe, fun and inspiring public space. FoAHP began with a petition to the local community board in August 2013 to advocate for safety and beautification measures within the park. Through teamwork with FoAHP’s neighbors, they are promoting appreciation, investment, community pride, and regular involvement in the Park that will contribute to its improvement and upkeep over time.

Astoria Heights Park is one of 35 sites targeted in NYC Parks’ Community Parks Initiative, a multi-faceted investment in the smaller public parks that are located in New York City's densely populated and growing neighborhoods. The Community Parks Initiative is NYC Parks' first major equity initiative. It will invest $130 million capital dollars and also bring enhanced programming, maintenance, and community partnership building to community parks serving high-need communities. The initiative will engage New Yorkers in rebuilding local parks, create new reasons to get out and get fit, and reconnect communities to the green spaces right outside their doorsteps.

NYC Parks & Recreation’s Art in the Parks program has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, collaborations with arts organizations and artists have produced hundreds of public art projects in New York City parks. For more information visit

Directions to Astoria Heights Playground

Was this information helpful?