15 Pieces of Public Art to See With NYC Kids in Spring 2021
What better way to stretch legs and get some fresh air this spring than doing so while taking in colorful, wondrous, outdoor public art displays all over the city?
These sculptures, artworks, and installations are all located in public spaces allowing for nearly all-hours viewing. Some of these 15 pieces of public art to see this spring are gearing up to debut, while others are wrapping up soon.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance.
1. Reflect – Domino Park, Brooklyn
Through Thursday, April 15
This noteworthy immersive light display by artist Jen Lewin is inspired by shapes and patterns found in nature and responds to visitors’ footsteps to create a colorful response to movement. It pairs well with the illuminated view of the bridges and Manhattan lights, making this presentation best seen in the evening. We had plenty of fun dancing through Domino Park when we visited.
Reverberations begs for interaction from passersby on the Brooklyn Waterfront. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge Park
2. Reverberation – Brooklyn Bridge Park
Through Sunday, April 18
In Reverberation, five large, 4-foot-tall bright orange bells are presented by San Francisco-based sculptor Davina Semo. Ringing the bells is allowed and encouraged, with the help of a long rope dangling from each. While you’re at Brooklyn Bridge Park, be sure to visit some of the other public art installations outlined on this map.
3. Motherboard Meditation – Roosevelt Island
Through Friday, April 23
Artist Robin Kang finds common ground between circuit boards and textiles in her colorful drawings, exploring computer parts and ancient weaving techniques. The installation is displayed on The Bridge at Cornell Tech.
Reclining Liberty from artist Zaq Landsberg takes her place in Morningside Park in April. Rendering courtesy of the artist and Connie Lee, Marcus Garvey Park alliance
4. Reclining Liberty – Harlem
Opens Monday, April 26
Sure we love hopping on the ferry and visiting Lady Liberty in her natural element, but this new installation brings her uptown to Morningside Park in a decidedly less formal way. You won't find her standing tall and proud in this sculpture from artist Zaq Landsberg. Instead, she's lounging in the grass, on her side. Her demeanor reflecting that of many New Yorkers: weary, tired, and questioning. Find more public art in the Park to Park Guide to Public Art, which can be picked up in East Harlem's La Marqueta—along with local eats to fuel your journey.
Stop by Rockefeller Center to explore The Flag Project. Photo by Jody Mercier
5. The Flag Project – Rockefeller Center
Through Friday, April 30
Photography and art fans can visit Rockefeller's rink area to peruse flags depicting pictures of (or inspired by) “the city’s faces, objects, and textures” that were selected to be part of the 83 flags of The Flag Project. In partnership with the Aperture Foundation, the 5-foot-by-8-foot flags fly high through the end of April. Selections include pieces by amateur photographers and pros like Kwame Brathwaite, Renee Cox, Elliott Erwitt, Roe Ethridge, Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, Susan Meiselas, Duane Michals, and Tyler Mitchell. Windy days really bring this project to life.
Electric Dandelions are one of two public art installations near the South Street Seaport. Photo by Jody Mercier
6. Electric Dandelions – South Street Seaport
Through Friday, April 30
This magnificent light display at 19 Fulton Street features 10 large-scale steel and acrylic flowers and is best seen at dusk or after dark because of its bright, colorful, Ferris wheel-meets-fireworks look. Find more details on the work in our recent write-up of the display.
7. Daisies – South Street Seaport
Through Friday, April 30
Curated by Paige Silveria, this multidisciplinary work features the stylings of 30 artists and presents a spectrum of creativity that addresses youth culture and building community. The collection includes mixed-medium pieces and, like its neighbor, Electric Dandelions, is best viewed after dark.
Beginning in May, visitors to Madison Square Park encounter a jarring sight amid the bustling park: a tall grove of spindly dead cedar trees in Ghost Forest by Maya Lin. Rendering courtesy of the artist
8. Ghost Forest – Madison Square Park
Monday, May 10-Sunday, November 14
This climate-change-inspired art display by Maya Lin was originally scheduled for summer 2020, but it’s finally getting its debut this May. The specter forest Lin is currently installing offers a glimpse at one possible outcome of global warming. Her work provides a stark contrast to the lively greenery of Madison Square Park. The presentation also includes a series of programming offered in tandem, both online and in person.
9. Breathing Pavilion – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Through Tuesday, May 11
Artist Ekene Ijeoma's Breathing Pavilion was made for this moment. A series of inflatable columns set in a circle radiates with light in a pattern meant to evoke a calming breathing pattern. While you can visit the Breathing Pavilion at any time, you might want to bookmark your calendar for one of the on-site, live musical performances meant to deepen the experience.
Guadalupe Maravilla's Planeta Abuelx is a solo exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park this spring. Courtesy of the artist and PPOW Gallery
10. Planeta Abuelx – Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens
Opens Saturday, May 15
Guadalupe Maravilla presents a solo exhibition of newly commissioned works, using recycled and found materials to create pieces evoking healing gardens and Mesoamerican totems. It delves into themes of indigenous, holistic, medicinal, and symbolic rituals. The show includes a sound component that offers “restorative vibrational therapies” intended to dissolve anxiety and encourage healing.
11. Brighter Days – City Hall Park
Friday, May 21-Sunday, November 28
This collection of five pieces by Melvin Edwards is a study of the sculptures he’s created over his life as an artist, featuring pieces made from 1970-1996, plus a new piece crafted in 2020, especially for this show. It explores two main themes: the rocker and the chain, within which he examines oppression and connection. His geometric, abstract art explores the symbolic meaning these symbols hold in African American culture.
12. Rays – Downtown Brooklyn
Through Friday, June 4
These massive, colored-pencil-on-black-paper drawings by artist Liz Collins fill up the facade along 15 MetroTech Center, offering an almost one-dimensional laser light show in broad daylight as one passes by along the spacious sidewalk before them.
13. Re: Growth – Upper West Side
Saturday, June 5-Wednesday, September 15
Celebrate summer and the 35th anniversary of the Riverside Park Conservancy with this season-long, park-wide exhibition, which brings 13 site-specific installations to the green space. Curated by Karin Bravin, the installations are produced in a variety of mediums, including augmented reality.
Simone Leigh's Brick House will relinquish its spot on The High Line Plinth later this spring. Photo by Timothy Schenck
14. Brick House – The High Line
The Spur, the newest segment of The High Line, located at 10th Avenue and 30th Street, offers a space for long-term rotating public art pieces, and its inaugural installation, Brick House, a 16-foot tall bronze bust of a Black woman from artist Simone Leigh wraps up its run this spring. Located on The Plinth—inspired by the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square—it's meant to be an outdoor gathering area inviting visitors to linger. To find out what's coming to the space next, check out the finalists for the installations in 2022 and 2024; each is scheduled to run for 18 months.
15. Alive With Us/Vivo Com Nós – Midtown West
Through Friday, December 31
Muralist and painter Alexandre Keto’s thought-provoking and important public work explore the Black Lives Matter movement. On the construction fence between 42nd and 43rd streets, Keto presents future depictions of the lives of Black victims gone too soon, including Trayvon Marin, Sandra Bland, Agatha Felix, and Michael Brown, had they been able to thrive.
Bonus: More Ways to See Public Art in NYC
Walkable Guide On Public Art – Lower Manhattan
This tour allows you to take your family on a square-mile guided public art tour just south of Chambers Street. Chances are you’ve walked by these permanent art pieces before and, perhaps, never really noticed them. With the help of Downtown Alliance’s route, you encounter at least 13 pieces of public art, including the iconic Charging Bull and famed artist Jeff Koons’ Balloon Flower.
The City’s Public Art App – Citywide
Late last year, NYC Go released a public art app that allows users to venture all over the city on their own timeframe. Download the app and peruse nearby areas to find artwork currently on display in an easy-to-use interface viewable on your smartphone or another device.