Washington Square September 2012: Khalil Gibran on the Plaza, Fountain Plumes (Still) A Bit ‘Off,’ and Direction “To Happiness”

Khalil Gibran Near the Fountain…

A Closer Look

This artist, Honschar, has chalked memorable quotes on the Plaza at WSP a lot lately. He has a Facebook page.

So, if you look at the Fountain from the west, the fountain plume looks as if it is tilting south (left)…

The Fountain, looking East

When you look from the north looking south, it looks a bit more balanced.

(Still No Side Plumes.)

Looking South…

Then, on the Plaza (maybe left over from Occupy Wall Street Saturday? These photos are from Monday), this made me think … wouldn’t it be nice if there was an arrow leading the way? But maybe there is, and we don’t always realize it. Or, as my sister said, “maybe the arrow is YOU! ;)” Exactly.


In the meantime, I’d like to note where the arrow is pointing…

Art Blog Looks at Art Featuring Washington Square Park

John Sloan 1925

An art blog put together by British artist Poul Webb takes a look at art which has featured Washington Square. Webb has put together quite a collection of artwork that features the Park. He reflects, “I’ve noticed that a lot of American artists, particularly those associated with New York City, like the Ashcan School, have at one time or another undertaken paintings and drawings of Washington Square Park, so I thought I’d do a short post on that subject.”

In this etching above, look where Garibaldi once was!

Previously at WSP Blog:

* Portrait: Washington Square, 1910 — William Glackens

Artist Tom Matt’s NY: The Series Featured at Joe: The Art of Coffee on Waverly Place Until Thursday, March 15th — Interview with the Artist

From NY: The Series by Tom Matt

My new favorite local coffee shop, tied right now with Think Coffee, is Joe: The Art of Coffee, a few blocks from the park heading west. Currently on the walls of their small yet welcoming space on Waverly Place is artwork by New Yorker Tom Matt who has put together the terrific NY: The Series which features New York City locales set against the backdrop of the New York Times. The art is featured on Joe’s walls until this Thursday, March 15th.

I asked Tom some questions via email and here are his responses:

What inspired you to put together this series of NYC shots ? New York followed a series on Paris, yes? 

At the turn of the millennium, I knew that I wanted to create a body of work celebrating New York City. I wanted to draw the city using pastel, and didn’t know what kind of surface to draw on as my ‘canvas.’ It dawned on me one day, while sketching on a scrap of newspaper in Esperanto Cafe on MacDougal Street – to draw ‘my take’ on dynamic views of the city, on top of the front covers of NY newspapers. I liked the layering effect of pastel with body copy of headlines and articles peaking through here and there. This technique also spoke of layered narratives of all of us living is such a diverse and vibrant city.

Some years later, I decided to travel to France several times, where I created my Paris series, drawing on top of the Le Monde paper. I draw all of these on-location, which I prefer, and finalize them in my studio.

Was there a different feeling focusing on New York vs. Paris?

The main difference between Paris and New York is that our city is enormous next to Paris. Having lived here for so long brings a familiarity advantage in that, I was able to find my favorite views here comfortably over time. In Paris however, I had limited time and had to work more quickly. Paris is very charming, and the hard part was finding the ‘best’ views, since everywhere I turned – every view was amazing…

How long have you lived in New York?

I’ve lived in New York for about 14 years now. I grew up in Connecticut.

Joe The Art of Coffee Waverly Place

How did the show at Joe’s come about?

I love the walls at Joe’s on Waverly, and saw an ad there inviting artists to put up their work. It took a year before there was an opening for me. I’m pleased to have my work there now.

Washington Square Park is featured in the series. Thoughts on your feelings on drawing at the park and your experience working there?

I love the Arch in the Washington Square Park. Here is one interesting story among many I can share… I created a commission last year on newspaper for a client who proposed to his fiancée in the Park. The view features the Arch, and crowds of people around it. This gentleman met her when he was at NYU grad school, while he was playing guitar one day in the park. She approached him after listening, and left her number with him on a scrap of paper. This first meeting initiated the beginning of their relationship.

He asked me to include him in the art, playing guitar, which he posed for in the same spot where he met her. Once the art was complete, he gave the piece to her as a gift on their wedding day. The art was commissioned on a particular front page of the newspaper, bearing a date that had significance for them both.

Washington Square Park is wonderful – so many diverse people, artists, musicians bustling around. I like what they did redesigning the park, especially the gardens. I love the flowers there in Springtime.
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Check out Tom Matt’s NY: The Series at Joe: The Art of Coffee, 141 Waverly Place off Sixth Avenue (head west), this week, from now ’til Thursday, March 15th. (The WSP pieces are not showcased at Joe but you can view on his web site.) You can try a cup of their direct trade, organic (but not certified) coffee while you’re there!

Website of Tom Matt
Joe: The Art of Coffee

Washington Square Park Task Force Meets Tonite; Also, CB2 Parks Committee addresses Friends of the High Line Proposal and Public Hearing on “expressive matter” i.e., art in NYC Parks

The Washington Square Park Task Force and Community Board 2 Parks Committee meet tonite Wednesday, April 7th at 7:15 p.m. to discuss Phase III Washington Square Park redesign. The New York City Parks Department will be presenting a proposed design for the restrooms and Parks’ maintenance building — public comment is welcome.

Prior to that, at 6:30 p.m., the Parks Committee will discuss two other interesting issues. (How they will accomplish this in 45 minutes will be interesting!) These items are:

* Friends of the High Line will present their plan for a maintenance building to be located adjacent to the High Line in CB 2. (Update: This topic has been removed from the agenda.)

* Public hearing on proposed new Parks Department rules regarding vending of “expressive material” in parks.

— If you haven’t been following this, it’s quite controversial. It’s yet another way for the Bloomberg Administration to give private interests continued and additional reign over our parks and will limit artistic diversity and vitality, click here to read yesterday’s New York Times story. It’s not, as the Parks Department is asserting, that the artist vendors are taking up too much room and causing congestion in our parks by any means. To see that, go to Union Square when the GreenMarket is there on Saturdays or during the holiday market which takes up way too much of that public space in December.

Location for the meeting: NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, off Washington Square East, Room 401

NYC Parks Department Concedes Artists Have Right to Sell Art in High Line Park Post Arrests

Visit the recently debuted A Walk in the Park Blog to hear the latest on the High Line Park where artists were arrested three times in recent months for selling artwork in the new park. Artist and activist Robert Lederman is prepared to challenge the City Parks Department with a new lawsuit. He has previously prevailed in federal court where it was decreed that it is a First Amendment right for artists to be able to sell art in a public park.  Mr. Lederman met with NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe after the arrests. Subsequently, the Parks Department has retreated from their original position (that this vending is illegal because a permit is required or an issue of “public safety”) and said they would no longer authorize Park officers to arrest artists in the park.

$153 million of public funding has been allocated to the High Line Park’s creation. Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates writes at A Walk in the Park Blog that that money could have been directed towards “communities that desperately need their already established parks fixed up.”

From the blog:

On Saturday [12/12] artists were allowed to sell their wares on the High Line without incident for the first time. The day before, the Parks Department reversed its position which had resulted in three arrests. Their previous vending policy only permitted selling items which included designer muffins, exotic teas, coffee and gelato. Unlike the “expressive matter” vendors, commercial concessions bring in revenue to the city.  The City is currently negotiating a sole source concession agreement with the Friends of the High Line (FOH) which would allow the group to keep revenue from items sold on the park property. Since its opening in the Spring, the City has allowed 29 different permitted commercial vendors on the High Line but no art vendors.

In addition, Croft writes: “One would think that the Friends of the High Line would have made every effort to accommodate artists instead of actively trying to discriminate against them.”

From the Friends of High Line Park:

Artwork is a logical inclusion for the High Line; artists, gallery owners and art collectors were among the earliest supporters of its transformation into a public park space, and it runs through some of the most culturally significant neighborhoods of Manhattan. “

In the news: Indypendent article — “Union Square Boondoggle”

The excellent Indypendent newspaper, in their issue out today, has a comprehensive article by Alex Kane (who also covered Washington Square Park for the paper) on the “Union Square Boondoggle.” Read it here.

Artists Being Evicted from Union Square Park


Artists make up a vital part of the fabric of Union Square Park. On Friday, April 4th, they were given word that they are being evicted out of their longstanding space due to Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe’s plans to further privatize the Park. These plans, as outlined previously, include expanding the restaurant space in the historic Pavilion for Union Square Partnership member and restauranteur Danny Meyer, thereby reducing the amount of space for artists, the famous GreenMarket(founded by Parks Commissioner Benepe’s father, Barry) and free speech protesters in the Park for TWO years during construction. The expansion for this restaurant, largely unwelcome by the community, will also mean the destruction of 14 stately trees by our city’s Parks Commissioner.

Here is an excerpt from a notice from Robert Lederman who organizes A.R.T.I.S.T., an organization representing, and comprised of, street artists in our city:

On Friday, April 4th 2008. the Parks Department told artists working in Union Square Park that for the next two years they would no longer be allowed to set up in or around the park on Wednesdays and Saturdays due to a construction project at the North end of the park. A restaurant is being built there on behalf of a board member of the Union Sq Partnership. As a result of the construction, the entire Greenmarket will be relocated from the North and West sides of the park to the South and West sides, the exact location artists have set up in for years.

I explained (to the Parks Department) that artists have no problem with the Greenmarket and are willing to reasonably cooperate in making space for the construction project but that we also have NO intention of giving up our First Amendment rights in the park.

Some background: The Mayor deliberately under budgets the Parks Department each year. As a result, the Parks Department must somehow earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year in order to pay the bills for running the vast NYC parks system. They make up for the lack of funds by selling concessions, letting corporations rent public parks for special events and by privatizing public spaces, as is being done in USP with the new restaurant.

They also deal with this deliberate under budgeting by allowing private corporations like the Union Square Partnership, The Central Park Conservancy, the Battery Park Conservancy and the Bryant Park Conservancy to take over most, or in some cases all, of the operations in a particular park. In exchange for the funding, they are allowed to gradually transform NYC’s public parks into corporate run privatized parks, not much different than Disneyland or a private mall.

For more information or to be updated consistently, please contact Robert Lederman at artistpres -at- gmail.com.
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