6 Free NYC Public Art Displays Kids Will Love
These engaging installations in parks, plazas and other public spaces are a great way to expose your kids to world-class art without setting foot in a museum. Plus, they're all FREE (well, to be totally accurate, one requires a MetroCard swipe). Bonus: The five public art displays in Manhattan are all on the 6 subway line, which makes for a fun East Side art trek. (We saw them all in one afternoon.)
Survival of Serena – Soho
Petrosino Square, Cleveland Place between Kenmare and Spring Streets
On view through Sunday, September 23
This tiny triangular green space hosts Carole Feuerman’s bathing beauty Survival of Serena. The lovely and serene lady is so realistic, I felt like I was intruding on her nap. This one really got my seven-year-old thinking. He questioned why she was just a bust, why she was sleeping and why she was there in the first place.
Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue – Midtown East
Park Avenue Malls between 52nd and 60th Streets
On view through Thursday, November 15
Late French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle's 10 colorful, larger-than-life mosaic statues are sure to catch your kid's eye. Installed along Park Avenue, the sculptures run the gamut from pure fantasy to likenesses of famous folks like trumpeter Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and basketball legend Michael Jordan.
John Chamberlain at the Seagram Building Plaza – Midtown East
375 Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets
On view through Friday, November 16
The Gagosian Gallery sponsored this display of whimsical large-scale statues by late American sculptor John Chamberlain. Kids will love running around the four twisted abstract pieces, which are made from industrial-grade aluminum and glisten in the sun.
Common Ground – Financial District
City Hall Park, Broadway and Park Row
On view through Friday, November 30
Enter the south gate of lovely City Hall Park and meander northward to view Common Ground. Sponsored by the Public Art Fund, the exhibit consists of 10 eclectic statues by wildly different contemporary artists, everything from Ian Hamilton Finlay's stone slabs inscribed with quotes from a French revolutionary leader, to a concrete podium by Amalia Pica, to a series of benches by Jenny Holzer emblazoned with short but stimulating sentences. While I found all of the works thought provoking, kids will be most taken with Paul McCarthy’s Daddies Ketchup, an enormous inflated ketchup bottle located near the park’s entrance—it was my seven-year-old's favorite.
Oscar Tuazon: People – Dumbo
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Piers 1 and 2
On view through Friday, April 26, 2013
The first site-specific installation in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Oscar Tuazon: People consists of three surreal statues that blend natural and industrial elements. All three work so well in the waterfront park, they're almost camouflaged. My son and I particularly liked the title sculpture: a giant concrete slab with a basketball backboard and a tree sprouting out of it. Of course there are many other attractions in Brooklyn Bridge Park, including awesome playgrounds, a pop-up pool and a cool carousel.
Hive – Noho
Bleecker Street's uptown 6 subway station
You need to go underground to see Leo Villareal’s mesmerizing Hive: This cool light installation is mounted on the ceiling of Bleecker Street's uptown 6 subway platform. Reminiscent of a giant beehive, it's illuminated with LED lights that flash, blink, chase each other and change colors in a bright and playful display that should keep little (and big) straphangers entertained while waiting for the train.
Some of the public art displays we spotlighted this past spring are still on view: Walking Figures in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza comes down Friday, September 7 and Pet Sounds in Madison Square Park is up through Sunday, September 9, so move quickly if you want to see those. You have plenty of time to check out Lilliput hidden along the High Line: The tiny statues will be on display through April, 2013.
Find out about other cool art exhibits for kids in our Museum Guide.