Culture, Creativity & Care Initiative Unveiled in Marcus Garvey Park ~ Sankofa





A work in progress, visiting Jerome Haferd’s ‘Sakofa’ with Connie Lee, President, Art Lives Here, Inc., June 16th in Marcus Garvey Park.

Marcus Garvey Park, which is adjacent to both Harlem and East Harlem, was the lucky recipient of a Mellon Foundation Humanities in Place Initiative, with a focus on fostering creativity and care in essential public space.

Administered through Harlem Grown, The Culture, Creativity & Care Initiative will be a two-year project, amplifying Harlem’s rich history and culture, along with its plethora of talented residents, from visual and performing arts to culture and food Programming, unveiling on June 18, 2023 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and artist talks from 2-5pm.

“Our parks and public spaces are an essential infrastructure for our communities and important platforms for sharing our collective history, heritage, and culture,” said Justin Garrett Moore, program officer for the Humanities in Place program at the Mellon Foundation. “Marcus Garvey Park has a rich legacy that will continue to grow through new resources for community care and meaningful public engagement led by Harlem Grown and local partners through justice-focused arts, food, and cultural heritage activities.”

Aerial rendering, Jerome Haferd’s ‘Sakofa’. Image via CB 11, courtesy Harlem Grown

The Marcus Garvey Park Culture, Creativity, and Care Initiative is a two-year multifaceted activation of the public realm that will center and amplify Harlem’s rich history and culture to diverse community members and visitors. The Mellon Foundation grant will support temporary artist installations, wellness pavilions, public performances, and programming focused on Harlem and its Black, Latinx, and Indigenous histories and cultures. This work will link to Harlem Grown’s existing network of urban farms. Ongoing public space interventions by BIPOC designers — approved and co-created by community-based organizations — will range from pop-up libraries, conversation-driving spaces, food and plant culture events, and activities focused on wellness and care.

A work in progress, visiting Jerome Haferd’s ‘Sakofa’ with Connie Lee, President, Art Lives Here, Inc., June 16th in Marcus Garvey Park.

The architectural firm Brandt : Haferd was chosen to create the pavilion, which will be the first of two outdoor art installations. Beginning in January 2023, Jerome Haferd, a principal in the Harlem based architecture and design studio, facilitated workshops with Harlem residents to co-create a temporary art installation.  This structure  followed a co-creation model where community members, local artists, and stakeholders worked with the design team to develop an intentional space for the enjoyment of Harlem residents and Marcus Garvey Park visitors. The structure has been designed to be inviting and also allow for visual art exhibitions, artist showcases, soapbox performances, open mics and writing workshops.

Interior artwork, June 2023

The installation is created to host not only programming (visual and performing), but to also act as a passive gathering space for park goers.

Haferd named his structure ‘Sankofa‘, which is an Akan tribe (Ghana) word which when translated means ~ wisdom learning from the past, as we move forward into the future.  Sakofa will be approximately sixteen-feet in the center, and thirty-feet on the outside. The steel frame will hold inviting wooden benches, with the upper portion, a printed mesh collage reflecting indigenous African textiles and images of the park. Along with benches, the installation will include planters holding not only flowers, but also edibles – to cut and take home.

The artwork will circle the interior of the structure with twelve panels – revolving works by local artists that will be on view from 6-8 weeks. The circular installation will be open to the sky, with the first set of artists to unveil their work along with the unveiling of Sakofa on June 16th.

I recently learned that many of the artists are from #HART ~ The Harlem Art Collective on 116th Street.

Meet the Artists

Map of Marcus Garvey Park indicating site for Sankofa. Jerome Haferd’s ‘Sakofa’. Image via CB 11, courtesy Harlem Grown

The installation is 32′ in diameter. Steel, printed polymer mesh, timber, wood, and various materials. The Lead Designer: Jerome Haferd of BRANDT : HAFERD. Design team included Violet Greenberg, Tiffany Gonzalez, Gabriel Moyer-Perez (project manager); Mesh Canopy Artwork / Composition : Jerome Haferd, Violet Greenberg, Gabriel Moyer-Perez; Install support : Dominiq Oti, Pedro Cruz Cruz, Suraya Babb, and Shadeen Dixon.

Consultants and Collaborators:
Steel Fabrication : Ziello Custom Framing and Fine Art
Printed Canopy and Art Panel Collaboration : NVS Visuals
Wood fabrication, design, and detailing : Tyreik Jackson,
Sitework : Franpen Restoration

The structure will physically sit adjacent to the Oval Lawn on the 124th Street side of the park, between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue ~ and within a few yards of the Harlem Drummers Circle.

Below are a few installation shots:

Thursday, June 8, 2023 – you can see the Juneteenth benches in the Drummers Circle to the left


Sankofa, a work in progress, June 8, 2023


Sankofa, June 8, 2023

The program will also explore wellness through food, cultural and arts programming with Harlem Grown’s Mobile Teaching Kitchen.

Sankofa, a work in progress as of June 12, 2023

Adding benches, tables and planters!

June 14, 2023

This is an especially busy side of the park, with the pool a level above, and chess tables, basketball court, barbecue area, and dog run running down the Madison Avenue side. The Great Lawn, which will be adjacent to Sakofa, currently holds the temporary art installation by artist Reuben Sinha, Breathing Without Fear, which has been holding related events throughout this year.

Sankofa within sight of the Drummers Circle and Juneteenth painted benches

The baseball field in Marcus Garvey Park runs along the southern end, and is home to the Harlem Little League. Next to the field, the Park just completed a new Community Room, Comfort Station and hopefully a concession.

Harlem Fire Watchtower on the Acropolis in Mount Morris Park, now Marcus Garvey Park, in Harlem. Image via Library of Congress

Richard Rodgers Amphitheater on the West side of the Park is home to Classical Theatre of Harlem, Jazzmobile and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. All of this, circling several sets of steps leading up to the Acropolis and the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower, designated a New York City landmark in 1967 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Harlem Fire Watchtower after restoration project, removed in 2015 and returned in 2019.

In addition, adjacent to the pool area is the Harlem Hort HQ, two greenhouse structures which will enable the Park to cultivate its own plants for Marcus Garvey Park as well as the other historic Harlem Parks. Hort HQ was a $50,000+ pledge by New York Junior League, and will allow for free public horticulture programming like workshops, demonstrations, author talks, arts horticulture events etc. which will include partners like Green Thumb, Partnerships for Parks, Harlem Grown, City Gardens Club, Horticultural Society and others. It will also offer a place for the uptown gardening/hort community such as Green Thumb gardeners, to have a central meet-up site, and a place for volunteers to meet.

More than 500 Junior League volunteers descended on Marcus Garvey Park in 2023 for their 32 annual Playground Improvement Project. This included the creation of a monarch butterfly garden along the south side of the park.

Caesura: a forum by artist Jessica Feldman and architects Jerome W. Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp on the Acropolis in Marcus Garvey Park in 2015

Jerome Haferd is no stranger to this park. His installation Caesura: a forum graced the top of the Acropolis, next to the Harlem Fire Watchtower, as a temporary art installation in 2015, and was both a large-scale architectural installation as well as a sound installation.

Sankofa is the first of two art installations that will be part of this two-year program, and will be on view to at least the Fall of 2023. The second art installation will install in 2024.

Stay tuned for a full schedule of programming and events, with the first taking place on June 16th from 3-7pm in Marcus Garvey Park, 124th Street between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. In between scheduled events, the hope is that the space will be enjoyed by the community.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ~ The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

The Drummers Circle in Marcus Garvey Park, with newly painted benches from Juneteenth.

Bring your patients with you. Competing events taking place that day. One of which is the 48th annual Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic from 9am to 4pm – bringing with it metal barriers on all sides of the Park ~ and Harlem Dance: Lindy Hop in the Amphitheater.

Marcus Garvey Park is just 1 short block away from the currently under construction National Black Theatre, and a block away from the busy Lenox Avenue and the Mt. Morris Park Historic District. The Park sits squarely between the Subway Stations for the 4-5-6 and 2-3 and several MTA bus lines.

Just a few blocks to the West, the newly renovated entrance to the historic Victoria Theatre, newly constructed Harlem Marriott Renaissance Hotel, Victoria Tower Residences and The Apollo Theater Expansion ~ and a few doors down, the historic Apollo Theater along 125th Street. Harlem and East Harlem are also home to a number of art galleries. More happening in Harlem Here and East Harlem Here.