Chelsea Park


Thursday, June 20, 2019
No. 47

NYC Parks is pleased to announce a partnership with the Facebook Art Department’s Artist in Residence program on a new project as part of Parks’ Creative Courts initiative. Creative Courts works with partner organizations to transform dated sports courts and asphalt plazas into vibrant and welcoming places with original murals that re-engage communities with their local parks. Through this partnership, basketball courts at Manhattan’s Marcus Garvey Park and Chelsea Park have received mural treatments by past Facebook artists in residence Saya Woolfalk and Robert Otto Epstein, respectively.

“Public art is everywhere – even under your feet! Through this partnership with Facebook’s Art Department, we are bringing a little life and color to some of our most beloved community resources – our basketball courts,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “Seeing Saya and Robert’s vibrant murals when you look down will brighten your day and change your experience of these treasured parks.”

“The Facebook Art Department provides opportunities for artists to create new, large-scale, site-specific installations, with the goal of fostering creative experimentation and supporting artistic communities. “We believe that art and artists are essential in society and deserve ongoing support as well as platforms for experimentation and public engagement,” said Jessica Shaefer, Facebook Art Department’s head of public programs and partnerships. “We’re excited to partner with NYC Parks on the Creative Courts initiative and present the fantastic work of our artist in residence program alumni in the public realm, for the local community to enjoy.”

Saya Woolfalk is a New York-based artist who uses science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine the world in multiple dimensions. Through a series of multi-year projects, Woolfalk has created the world of the Empathics, a fictional race of women who are able to alter their genetic make-up and fuse with plants. With each body of work, Woolfalk continues to build the narrative of these women's lives, and questions the utopian possibilities of cultural hybridity. In her design for Marcus Garvey Park, Woolfalk has turned the court into a fantastical, colorful mandala. Her court has been painted with the nonprofit youth development organization Publicolor, which uses design-based programs to engage at-risk students in education, college and career.

“We are thrilled to have our students work with former Publicolor site leader Saya Woolfalk in realizing this joyful and striking piece of public art,” notes Publicolor founder Ruth Lande Shuman. “I am especially excited to add Saya’s installation to the Publicolor Community Museum. Saya’s mural adds a new dimension to our multi-site collection of works that take the experience of outstanding visual art beyond museum walls and into underserved communities.”

Robert Otto Epstein, based in Jersey City, employs a grid-based style that started with an interest in knitting patterns, which provide a coded plan to create something physical. Epstein’s work also investigates how larger systems, patterns and language are assembled, pulled apart or remade into something new. Epstein’s design, titled “5b9k3q@^tg6!+2F<%O,” reflects the fast-pace, rapid movements of basketball, and how players attempt to outmaneuver their opponents by executing complex ‘picks and rolls,’ screens, and other plays in and around the basket to score. He believes the mural design will provide players with an energetic space on which to dribble, dream, and score.

Additional support for this project was provided by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, a local non-profit organization that activates the park as a community green space and cultural destination, which celebrates and preserves the creative culture of Harlem. The project is also supported by NYC Parks’ Citywide Services division, who refurbish countless courts in parks citywide each year. In addition to routine maintenance like patching and resurfacing, Citywide Services regularly repaints basketball courts to ensure that sports courts around the city are available for thousands to enjoy.

For more than 50 years, NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. The agency has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce thousands of artworks by notable and emerging artists. For more information about the program visit

Facebook Art Department
The Facebook Art Department includes the Artist in Residence (FB AIR), Analog Research Lab (ARL), and Creative Engagement programs, which have a collective mission to encourage creativity, innovation, openness, and connectivity through art and design. FB AIR invites artists to create site-specific art installations around the world at Facebook offices, and ARLs act as on-site print studios that host immersive learning experiences through the Creative Engagement program. FB Art Department also presents public-facing programs and supports projects that bring together diverse communities in real life and encourage the exploration of creative and critical thinking. Learn more at and on Instagram at @fbairprogram.

Publicolor fights poverty by aggressively addressing the alarming dropout rate and low levels of educational attainment and youth employment in New York City. They do this by engaging high-risk students in intensive, design-based programs to encourage academic achievement, community service, college preparation, and job readiness. Their unique applied learning approach uses design and design thinking as vehicles to engage, stimulate and inspire at-risk students in our city’s struggling schools, empowering them to achieve success in school, college

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