By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Joggers in Riverside Park South are about to get a little art with their exercise.
Work started Tuesday on installing eight public sculptures in Riverside Park South, the waterfront greenery that runs along the Hudson River from West 72nd to 59th Street.
The sculptures, created by students from the Art Students League of New York, will be officially unveiled on Friday and remain on view for a year.
The public art project is a partnership between the Parks Department and the Art Students League's Model To Monument program, which trains artists on how to create public art from start to finish.
Student sculptors visited Riverside Park South months ago to scope out the setting, then created works to complement the surrounding environment.
On Tuesday afternoon, artist Akihiro Ito helped a crew of workers assemble his towering wooden sculpture, called "Forever."
Ito, 36, said he was excited to see the sculpture that he'd spent months designing become a reality. He said he'd never seen his work at full size because the ceilings in the studio where he built it were too low to accommodate the 13-foot piece.
Ito chose Douglas fir wood for the sculpture because it's a warm and earth-friendly material, he said.
The sculpture depicts a couple standing side by side gazing up at the sky, Ito said.
"I want to show that the human soul is eternal," the artist said. "To see the universe, the stars, nature. Our souls never die. It's the natural cycle."
Ito said he'd be happy if a passer-by on a nearby path paused for a moment to think about his work.
A few minutes later, someone did. Rollerblader Barry Johnson cruised to a halt and stepped onto a grassy patch so he could snap a quick photo of the sculpture.
"It's a great addition, it's good to have something new," said Johnson, before he sped off.