Harriet Tubman, an American hero, was born this month in 1822 into enslavement. Her work as a spy, activist, abolitionist, feminist, and advocate is rightfully considered some of the most consequential and daring of the 19th century.
Harriet Tubman undertook an incredible 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using and fortifying the Underground Railroad. Every moment her daring work took her into the slave-holding south was one where capture would have meant certain death.
Additionally, during the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army.
Her work for justice did not end with the conclusion of the civil war. Later in life, Harriet Tubman worked as a women’s sufferage activist.
Born enslaved in Maryland, Tubman was devoutly religious and passionately political. In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, and later met John Brown in 1858, and helped him plan and recruit supporters for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was instrumental in a raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people. After the war, she retired to the family home on property she had purchased in 1859 in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her aging parents.
Harlem’s monument to this amazing American hero presents a determined Harriet Tubman, striding towards to the south to bring yet another group of enslaved Americans, northward.
Tubman’s statue, also known as “Swing Low,” was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, and designed by the African-American artist Alison Saar. It was dedicated in 2008 at Harlem’s Harriet Tubman Triangle on 122nd Street. In her memorial sculpture, Saar chose to depict Tubman “not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as a train itself, an unstoppable locomotive that worked towards improving the lives of slaves for most of her long life.” She told the Parks Department, “I wanted not merely to speak of her courage or illustrate her commitment, but to honor her compassion.”
Artist A. Saar’s (who also did work on the platforms of Metro-North at Park/124) work is bolstered by some of the most political horticultural plantings I know of – cotton, for example – perhaps the commodity inextricably linked to the slavery economy.
Silent Procession – NYC4PR – Has a New Website
“Estamos Contigo Puerto Rico” – “We are With You Puerto Rico”
Silent Procession has a new website dedicated to expressing solidarity with Puerto Rico and maintaining the spotlight on the response to, and consequences of, Hurricane Maria.
Tunnel Vision by Logan Hicks – the largest stenciled mural in the world.
In the middle of 2020, during the height of the pandemic in New York City, Logan Hicks was commissioned to creatively re-imagine a massive breezeway at the East River Plaza in Harlem. Nearly a year later, Hicks completes his largest work to date – a 19,000 sq. ft installation entitled “Tunnel Vision”. This work consists of a continuous stenciled mural that wraps the inside the towering breezeway, paired with a custom designed sound installation. The mural is set to be certified by Guinness World Records on July 29th, 2021.
Behold layers of stenciled aerosol transforming gray concrete into lush greenery, climbing up each of the thirty-foot walls and pillars, meeting at the ceiling painted in a vibrant, sky-blue gradient. Looking closely, tucked in the green thicket covering the walls are dozens of stenciled birds that live within New York State, while the four-hour looping soundtrack brings them to life – featuring the calls of every bird indigenous to New York.
This experiential piece was inspired by Christian Cooper, the Central Park birdwatcher who was thrust into the spotlight in May of 2020. Cooper shed light on a part of New York that Hicks was unaware of – the birdwatching community. Until that story unfolded across media outlets everywhere, the artist never knew of the Ramble – the birdwatching section of Central Park.
During the pandemic, Hicks visited the area many times and was taken by the symphony of bird chirps and songs that echoed through the treetops. The idyllic utopia of wildlife sits right in the middle of this bustling city.
Recognizing that there is a segment of the population that would not go to Central Park with a pair of binoculars to watch birds, Tunnel Vision is Hicks’ attempt to recreate the feeling of the Central Park Ramble in the language that he understands best – murals.
To grasp the scale of such an endeavor, it’s noteworthy that the artist’s estimate to complete the mural would be one, maybe two months on-site. Braving the unpredictable weather of every season, Hicks has now used over 100 gallons of paint, 500 cans of spray paint, hundreds of stencils, dozens of rolls of Gorilla Tape, and an uncounted number of hours painting – defying expectations – and tedious limitations of the stencil medium – to complete Tunnel Vision.
A video of the 4th Annual (Virtual) Silent Procession for Puerto Rico
Save The Date: September 19th
The White Wall
The novel, the film, and the soundtrackAcross 110th Street, reflected a fascinating cultural moment in New York City and Harlem. In the film you see a car driving up through Central Park, a heist across from the Morris-Jumel Mansion, and the unfinished Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Building being used in a horrific scene of violence.
The 2020 Census shows that New York’s borders between the UWS, and the UES in particular, are still firmly entrenched and, as they say, ‘visible from space’.
And while there is some movement in the diversity in the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights, the UES remains a steadfastly predominantly white community.