Lenox Avenue's 'Pod' Sculpture Symbolizes Growth, Says Artist
HARLEM — To some, a new sculpture on Lenox Avenue looks like a spaceship. To others, it's a cocoon.
To Alan Hong, a computer technician at medical and social support services organization Harlem United, the new 10-foot tall, football-shaped sculpture at the median on Lenox Avenue and 124th Street "looks like an alien pod."
Hong is close. The 3-foot wide temporary steel and bronze sculpture is titled "Pod."
"It's a pod, a seed that symbolizes growth," explained Pedro Villalta, a sculptor and welder who designs art and furniture, and who created the sculpture. It will remain in place 11 months as part of the Department of Transportation's Urban Art Program.
With fellow artist Montserrat Daubón helping to organize the project, Villalta lobbied the support of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association to get "Pod" in place.
The pair utilized Kickstarter to raise $8,500 to cover the cost of creating the pod, $1,000 more than they asked for. DOT kicked in another $1,000 to help with the installation.
"We don't see enough public art in our neighborhood," said Daubón who, like Villalta, lives in Harlem.
"We started talking to local community groups and everyone was blown away by the idea," she said.
They picked the median at 124th Street and Lenox and designed the pod because it fits with the narrowness of the median, said Daubón.
"I felt it was a simple piece but I wanted it to have meaning for the community," said Villalta.
The pod is made with steel, bronze, sheet metal and rebar, a steel bar used to reinforce concrete. It is held together by 88 pounds of welding.
All together, the piece weighs 1,000 pounds. It was created at the Madagascar Institute in Brooklyn and took eight men to lift it into place.
Wendy Feuer, assistant Department Of Transportation commissioner for Urban Design and Art, said the city has completed 100 public art projects in the last four years. Under the program, the DOT partners with community groups to create temporary art installations such as murals, performances and sculptures on sidewalks, medians and plazas.
"Twenty six percent of land mass is public space. it's not just a place for cars, it's also for people," said Feuer.
The temporary art installation program allows the the projects to be a little more adventurous because it's not permanent.
"If you change the art, it stays fresh," said Emily Colasacco, program manager for the urban art program.
"It beautifies the neighborhood while getting people to stop. It becomes a presence."
Syderia Chresfield, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, said the group embraced the idea as soon as Villalta and Daubon presented it in the fall of 2011.
"We want to have art on Lenox Avenue as part of the revitalization of this grand avenue," said Chresfield. "The pod is like an organic piece that represents hope and a new beginning."
Laurent Delly, vice-president of the improvement association, said people were so interested during the installation of the pod that he saw three cars almost get into fender benders.
"It's all about caring for your neighborhood," he said.
"This shows that we care for our neighborhood."
Daubón said she hopes this is just the beginning of getting more temporary and eventually permanent public art in Harlem. The hunt is already on for the pod's replacement in little under a year.
"This gives aspiring artists an opportunity to display their work. Art can be a bridge," said Daubón.
Hong said he was immediately struck by the piece, even though he wasn't sure what it was at first.
"I was like, 'That's new. That wasn't there last week,'" said Hong.
It's the response Villalta is looking for.
"I like the idea of criticism and people figuring it out," he said.
"It's supposed to be interactive."