This coming summer, visitors to Madison Square Park in New York will be treated to more than just the usual monumental public art—they’ll also be able to see poetry readings, experimental theater, and dance performances. All of that will happen under, beside, or on top of three sculptures created by Josiah McElheny. Made of painted wood and the artist’s signature prismatic glass, the sculptures—titled Prismatic Park and commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy—will go on view on June 13.
Each sculpture is designed to host a different type of performative art. A curvilinear blue wall will amplify music, a circular green sculpture will become a stage for dance, and a domed red and yellow work will allow poets to read without too much glare from the sun. Three New York–based nonprofits—Blank Forms, Danspace Project, and Poets House—will be responsible for creating the live events. When not inhabited by dancers, poets, and actors, the public will be allowed to interact with the works.
In the spirit of artists like László Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky, the wood-and-glass sculptures are meant to act as stages for utopias. According to McElheny, they also capitalize on the way parks can become activist spaces. McElheny and the Madison Square Park Conservancy plan to issue a free weekly newspaper that they hope will spur visitors to stage political and artistic events.
“One of the most urgent societal issues today is how can we best share what little public space is left to us,” McElheny said. “Prismatic Park attempts to provide a partial answer to this question by suggesting that the arts can expand existing public spaces through the visionary efforts of individuals and small groups, creating works of art, dance, music and poetry in the middle of our city.”