A Public Space Issue 13

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Cover photos by Maria Antonietta Mameli

The new issue of A Public Space is out and it’s one of their best.  There’s a wonderful piece by Robert Sullivan about artist Katie Holten‘s 2009 public installation on Brooklyn’s Grand Concourse called Tree Museum.  Holten picked one hundred trees along the five-mile Grand Concourse, around sixty different species according to Sullivan, and she put a sign with a phone number on each tree.  When you called the number you got a tape recording of a voice talking about that tree and that particular location.  At Grand Concourse and Marcy Place, just above 169th St., Christ the King elementary school was matched with Tree No. 38, a pin oak, “one of the most common New York City street trees,” notes Sullivan.  When you called the phone number associated with the tree, a girl from the elementary school, Amelina Castillo, could be heard saying:  “My school’s tree is a pin oak.  With its pyramidal shape, it provides shade.  It can grow up to sixth to seventy feet and twenty-five to forty feet wide…It’s very pleasing to know that the Concourse has been around for more than a hundred years.  Some of us have been born and raised here.”

Other tree speakers were less obscure than young Amelina, such as former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, hip-hop artist Jazzy Jay, and architect Daniel Libeskind who spoke for Tree No. 97:  “As a teenager I was an immigrant to the Bronx, and the Grand Concourse was my iconic street.  Street of extraordinary trees, a kind of boulevard that I only dreamed of because it reminded me of Europe.”

Sullivan contrasts Tree Museum with more famous, touristy recent NYC public installations such as Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s The Gates and Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls.

You should check out this issue of A Public Space if you haven’t checked out the magazine before.  There’s also an interesting long piece by Denis Donoghue on why T.S. Eliot preferred Dante to Shakespeare, and another excellent piece by frequent APS contributor Amy Leach, among many others.

Finally, the photographer Frank Hunter, a former contributor to APS, points out that the cover photos of the new APS issue, by Maria Antoinetta Mameli (excerpted above), make him think of Eugene Smith’s pictures from the fourth floor loft window looking down onto Sixth Avenue and the wholesale flower district.

-Sam Stephenson

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