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Madison Square Park to Get Permanent Art Curator

By Mary Johnson | March 12, 2012 5:01pm

MANHATTAN — In the wake of a series of popular outdoor art exhibitions, the Madison Square Park Conservancy has created a new, full-time curator position for its art program — to be funded by a $2 million endowment.

The conservancy has begun the process of trying to fill the position, which was conceived as an opportunity to secure the future of the Mad. Sq. Art program. The park has recently attracted sculptors Jaume Plensa, whose giant white head became a popular attraction this past summer, as well as Alison Saar, who created a series of seasonal sculptures specifically for the greenspace.

“The Madison Square Park Conservancy is a cultural institution,” said Debbie Landau, president of the conservancy.

“We’ll have an enduring position funded by an endowment,” she added of the money, which is a combination of gifts and donations. “That’s extremely, I think, original for a city park and will provide perpetuity for our program and assist our fundraising.”

The conservancy’s curator will be responsible for conceptualizing, planning and presenting contemporary art exhibitions in Madison Square Park, which has played host to more than 20 installations since the conservancy’s art program was established in 2004. The position will be named in honor of Martin Friedman, the former director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and a current member of the conservancy’s art advisory committee.

The conservancy is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support Madison Square Park. The endowment — for which nearly $1 million has already been raised — will be dedicated specifically to the curator position, ensuring that one part of the art budget is always covered, Landau said.

The conservancy will host a gala benefit on May 31, both to continue raising funds to complete the $2 million endowment and to honor Martin Friedman, who Landau called one of the country's foremost museum directors. 

“We revere Martin Friedman,” Landau said. “He has chosen to be an integral part of advising and shaping the Mad. Sq. Art program. I’m sure it is as good as it is because of Martin being involved with us.”

Landau said the conservancy is hoping to announce the conservancy's new curator within the next few months.