Artists Install a Skate Park on the Andrew Freedman Home's Front Lawn

By Patrick Wall on May 9, 2013 8:56am 

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 A Bronx art collective created a skateable installation outside the historic Grand Concourse mansion.
Andrew Freedman Home Skate Park
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CONCOURSE — In the past, the Andrew Freedman Home served as a regal retirement home for wealthy seniors who had fallen on hard times.

Beginning Thursday, it will serve as the site of an artsy outdoor skate park for young people trying not to fall off their boards.

Eight Bronx-based artists collaborated on the installation in the mansion's front lawn, which includes a large wooden platform, decorated ramps, sculptures and a recording of Bronx sounds.

“I had an epiphany to bring a skateboard course and artwork all together,” said Walter Puryear, project manager for the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, which owns the historic Grand Concourse building.

The nonprofit community-development agency spent nearly $6,000 on supplies and construction of the installation, called Skate the Bronx, which will be free and open to skaters all summer, Puryear said.

He hopes the project will draw local youth into the Andrew Freedman Home, which was built in the 1920s as a refuge for elderly members of the upper crust who had lost their fortunes. Today, it houses a day care program, a bed-and-breakfast and space for artists to create and exhibit work.

The installation artists, led by curator Jeanine Alfieri, designed the skate park layout, printed custom-vinyl decorations for the ramps, created sculptures and audio and even wrapped a tree in a striped “yarn-bomb.”

It's a work in progress, and Puryear envisions adding suspended sculptures that must be activated by soaring skaters (“motion art,” he calls it) and enlisting painters and photographers to document the interactions.

“It’s creating a whole new art form,” he said.

For Alfieri, who pulled together the project in a single month, the enterprise was as much about uniting Bronx artists as it was about building a skate park.

“This whole thing of artists competing with each other doesn’t help anybody,” said Alfieri, who relocated her Fountainhead Gallery from Chelsea to The Bronx a few years ago, partly out of frustration with the hyper-competitive Manhattan art world.

The installation is one of the first projects by a loosely affiliated Bronx-artist group that Alfieri has assembled, called Collective Energy. The idea is to pool resources, contacts and experience, whether on collaborative projects or in service of one another’s work.

“Now, we’re all advancing our careers together,” Alfieri said.

Artist Patricia Cazorla, a former curatorial assistant at the Lehman College Art Gallery, helped prepare the ramp decorations and recorded the soundtrack of Bronx noises.

The idea of the “audience” rolling over the art attracted her, she said, as did the frictionless collaboration among the different artists.

“It’s the first time I worked very comfortably with a group of artists,” she said. “It was very easy — like it was meant to be.”

The installation is open for skating or viewing from May 9 through August 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the Andrew Freedman Home at 1125 Grand Concourse.

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