This year marks the 19th anniversary of the West Harlem Art Fund. Our anniversary is on January 1st. And we are going to embark on a new adventure — more digital, sound, light-based installations and LIVE events. Our organization has been working hard to develop a more sustainable platform for the organization. In the coming years, arts organization must find ways to deal with audience engagement and interactive works.
The ARCHES OF HARLEM is one such project. This is a collaborative effort led by the West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting. We intend to work with many artists that are local, national and international. We are sharing our vision and hope to realize a portion of that dream in 2018.
The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting, a Harlem-based architectural lighting design studio, are embarking on an ambitious project to permanently light the entire length of the 12th Avenue viaduct in West Harlem. The 12th Avenue viaduct runs from 125th Street to 135th Street near the Hudson River and adjacent to the Henry Hudson Parkway. This artistic endeavor would complement the new campus Columbia University is building from 125th Street to 135th Street, as well as new streetscaping along West 125th Street from Old Broadway to Marginal Street by NYC Economic Development Corporation.
“We’re proud and excited to be part of this initiative to bring public light art to the West Harlem neighborhood,” says Paul Gregory, founding principal of Focus Lighting. “It’s a unique opportunity to honor one of New York’s beloved architectural landmarks in a way that is graceful and respectful of its historical value. Our goal is to create elegant static light art, like a painting in a museum – as opposed to flashy animated light shows.”
The light-based project – the ARCHES OF HARLEM, would allow various artists to collaborate with the team and translate their works into light. The viaduct would become a tourist destination and offer much needed economic development for local residents. Focus Lighting’s proposed installation will use programmable light fixtures attached to each of the viaduct’s 26 arches. The lighting will change every three months with a new artist-inspired design projected onto the viaduct.
The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting have met with several city agencies and elected officials. The team is developing plans to conduct a pilot scheme where the newly proposed lighting will be tested on one arch at each end of the viaduct. Artwork reflecting local history or cultural appreciations is also being considered for the project.
Executive Director & Chief Curator Savona Bailey-McClain of the West Harlem Art Fund shares, “THE ARCHES OF HARLEM will allow our community to grow artistically. Many efforts have been stymied in Harlem because of limited space and resources. Now, we have room to explore and collaborate with collections, galleries and artists both locally and around the world.”
BENEFITS OF THE ARCHES OF HARLEM
It is Unique
The 12th Avenue viaduct is a perfectly symmetrical, 70-foot tall structure whose arches repeat over 25 times. Architecturally, the viaduct is itself a work of art and the ideal canvas for the proposed light art installations.
No Visual Competition
Compared to many of New York City’s existing tourist destinations, Times Square, the Highline, and Rockefeller Center for example, the West Harlem area is quiet and without much visual competition.
85% of the equipment is attached to one easily accessible location about 15 feet from the ground on each of the 26 arches.
About the Viaduct
The 12th Avenue Viaduct also known as the Riverside Drive Viaduct was built in 1900 by the City of New York. The viaduct was constructed to connect an important system of drives in Northern Manhattan — a high-level boulevard extension of Riverside Drive over the barrier of Manhattanville Valley to the former Boulevard Lafayette, which today, is north of 158th Street.