Prospect Park’s 150th anniversary, and Brooklyn’s recent blossoming as a rising cultural and residential alternative to Manhattan, provides an impetus to promote and improve Prospect Park and, in particular, a part of the Park that is underutilized. The Park’s rose garden is the site of the Connective Project. That rose garden is only a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s rose garden, but a world away in attendance, style, maintenance and, in fact, roses. The Park’s rose garden is currently rose-less. On the other hand it is full of flashing, yellow pinwheels.
The Connective Project was the concept of Suchi Reddy and Reddymade Architecture and Design, a design firm associated with experimentation, bold color and new materials. In this installation, visual art proffered on line (on when visiting) by any interested person is curated, culled, printed and folded into pinwheels. Some thousands of pinwheels have been mounted in the Park’s Rose Garden secreted in Park’s northeast corner. Many thousands of blanks remain to be decorated by visitors; more than initially planned.
The Prospect Park Alliance, working with Hester Street Collaborative, a non-profit organization focused on improving the physical environment in underserved NYC neighborhoods, hopes to engage the community in the planning the restoration of the Park’s northeast corner. They will be reaching out to the community in a variety of settings to help determine the future design of this space. (The first of these community efforts began in a Community Design Workshop on June 10.) The community engagement phase is supported in part by The Altman Foundation.
The installation is slated to remain in place only through July 17, 2017; you have a short time to get there. But even if you miss seeing this effort, Prospect Park itself is well worth exploring. Prospect Park itself is, like Central Park, built on a plan of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. At 526 acres, Prospect Park is about two-thirds the size of Central Park. It, too, is a magnificent and varied park accommodating, among other sites, the Brooklyn Zoo, a charming lake and boathouse, the first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, an ice rink, a band shell, a carousel, bike paths, dozens of athletic and recreational facilities, and the historical Lefferts House (a Dutch Colonial farmhouse built between 1777 and 1783). The Park abuts the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden – a somewhat less formal affair than the Bronx counterpart, but lovely in its own way. Its paved paths need restoration; greater efforts at garbage collection are required; better signage and maps are needed. But on the plus side, it was possible, on this gray afternoon in Brooklyn, to walk ten minutes in Adirondack-like woods and not encounter another human being. The park’s state and status have fluctuated over the years but, with the rising economic tide, efforts are being made to return it to its former glory.
The installation itself opened on July 7, a rainy day clearing toward mid-afternoon. The overcast emphasized the sunny yellow of the unadorned pinwheels. Each pinwheel is mounted on its own swaying but rigid wire stem, varying from about 30” to 60” in height. The pinwheels themselves come in a few varied diameters. As a guesstimate, perhaps 15% of the pinwheels reflect submitted art work. The rest remain a bright yellow awaiting subsequent contribution. The abundance of pinwheels had particular appeal for the few children in attendance – who, on the weekend and in the sun, will certainly be more evident.
The overall effect was charming and whimsical, especially when the wind picked up. Nonetheless, that effect might have been more powerful if the terrain had been hillier or not entirely enclosed by trees; if the space were more generous or there had been more paths among the pinwheels; if the heights were more varied and, some, taller than visitors; or if there were an overlooking prospect. (All of these variations involve cost and logistics that were not part of this particular installation – but I’m looking ahead for copycats.) If you have an interest in the Park, the Connective Project might be enough to make you accelerate your calendar, especially if you have art to contribute to one or more of the pinwheels or a child to charm. Bring a picture of your child or children on your phone or a memory stick and see it turned into a pinwheel or, better, submit it in advance on-line and find it in place on your arrival.
All photos by Fred R. Cohen. To see more of his work, go to his website.