Harlem-based non-profit the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, Public art organizer Connie Lee and Harlem-based artist Susan Stair are pleased to announce the installation of Ascending the Mountain, a public artwork in Marcus Garvey Park. Installed in three distinct sections along the staircase that leads up to the overlook terraces known as the Acropolis and the Harlem Fire Watchtower. The artwork is exhibited as part of NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program and is one of six temporary public art installations organized by the public art committee in Harlem this Summer.
We first stepped into Susan Stairs world of trees at an exhibition in 2018 entitled Hidden Landscapes at Living With Art Salon, where at the opening reception, Stair spoke of an intricate and exciting underground life, eloquently displayed through her artwork. Her focus and passion is in the exploration of how trees are constantly sending electrical messages through their roots, composing what she calls a Wood Wide Web.
The following year, we followed the artist from tree to tree as she took impressions, pressing clay against the bark to mirror its intricate patterns, for her up-and-coming outdoor art installation, Roots on Fire, located in Harlem Art Park in 2019.
Now, in 2021, we find Stair installing the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance summer art installation, Ascending the Mountain, along the stairway up to the Acropolis, the home of the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower. Here is how the artist describes this project:
“Ascending the Mountain, is a dream project for me, an opportunity to tell the remarkable story of how a few trees planted in the early part of the 20th century on a mountain of Manhattan Schist in Marcus Garvey Park, self seeded, their roots pushed down through the rocky outcropping and grew over time to create an urban forest. The naturally seeded forest brings shade, moisture, oxygen, birds and small animals to the surrounding neighborhoods of Harlem.
The installation is spaced at different levels along the staircase providing direct connections and views of the adjacent forest at eye level.
The first section titled Roots in Rock is near the base of the stairs on the east side of the mountain, where viewers are able to see beyond the artwork and witness the now mature roots and how they moved the rock to access water and nutrients.
One level up the stairs is section two, Growing Powerhouse, which illustrates the trees ability to bring gallons of water and minerals up the side of the mountain thru their trunks to photosynthesize and produce leaves.
The third and upper most section, Tree Canopy, is just below the upper level of the park adjacent to the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower. At this level the viewer is looking at the tree tops, a rare birds eye view of a tree canopy in an urban environment.
I am an environmental artist. My low relief sculptures identify tree species, reflecting their age and resilience using clay impressions of live tree bark. I cast trees adjacent to my public artworks so that the viewer can see and touch the bark, experiencing the trees in real time. I incorporate mosaic tiles to create a narrative that informs. With Ascending the Mountain, I am illustrating how 5 Million trees in New York City annually remove 2000 tons of air pollution and store 40,000 tons of CO2 cooling and improving air quality.
My work is inspired by science and the underground network that trees use to communicate and share resources intra-species. Viewers often say they’ll never see trees the same way again.” ……. Artist, Susan Stair
About the artist ~ Susan Stair has worked in the US and Asia where she lived for many years exploring the landscape while creating collaged paintings and installations. Exhibitions in Asia include Galleria Duemila, Fringe Gallery and the US Embassy in Manila. Stairs installation Primarily an Issue of Color at the Hong Kong Cultural Center was also on view at The Tokyo Design Center in Japan.
Stair has two permanent public art installations in NYC, By the Waters, 2009, PS 189, a DOE Commission and Returning to the River , 2018 which was commissioned by Parkadon Development at West 139th Street in Harlem. She has also produced four temporary public art installations in New York City Parks since 2016.
Stair’s work has been exhibited in group and individual shows in NYC, Washington DC, Delaware, Philadelphia and Rochester, NY.
Born in Philadelphia she lives and works in NYC. She holds an MFA from the University of Delaware.
About Connie Lee: As a public art leader and advocate, Connie works to create opportunities for under represented artists and to provide access to art in communities that are often excluded by bringing quality art installations, exhibitions and performances to people where they are. Follow Connie Lee on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website.
Check out three other local outdoor art installations curated by Connie Lee beginning with the most recent, Plastic Fantastic in Harlem Art Park; Reclining Liberty in Morningside Park; and Kenseth Armstead: Boulevard of African Monarchs, on West 116th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, which is still on view through August, 2021. We heard we should expect another installation later this summer in the historic Collyer Brothers Park, Harlem? And a new exhibition at Living With Art Salon, featuring one of our favorite artists? Stay tuned.
About Marcus Garvey Park Alliance: The Alliance works collaboratively with community residents and stakeholders to maintain the park and its cultural significance. In 2015 past president Connie Lee developed the public art program which quickly expanded beyond the perimeter of the park encompassing parks and public spaces throughout the adjacent neighborhoods of Harlem.
About NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks: For more than 50 years, NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. The agency has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce more than 2,000 public artworks by 1,300 notable and emerging artists in more than 200 parks.
Ascending the Mountain is made possible in part with funding from: LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council), New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation (UMEZ).
Ascending the Mountain | Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem will be on view from July 17, 2021 through June 30, 2022 with an Opening Reception on Saturday, July 17th from 1:00 ~ 3:00pm.
While you’re at the Opening Reception, take a walk up to the Acropolis where you will find Urban Park Rangers giving free tours to the top of the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower – July 17th from 1:00-3:00pm.
Did you know that Jazzmobile’s Summerfest2021 has several concerts in Marcus Garvey Park? Many of them coinciding with Classical Theatre of Harlem. Both held in the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, enter the park on Fifth Avenue at 124th Street.
In addition, if it’s Saturday, you might catch The Harlem Drummers in the Drum Circle located on the Madison Avenue side of Marcus Garvey Park between 123-124th Streets.