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Riverside Park South's Sculpture Garden Brings Students' Visions to Life

By Emily Frost | June 14, 2012 8:49am
Olga Rudenko's sculpture "Existence Within" uses the shape of Russian nesting dolls to examine themes of identity and belonging.
Olga Rudenko's sculpture "Existence Within" uses the shape of Russian nesting dolls to examine themes of identity and belonging.
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Emily Frost/DNAinfo

UPPER WEST SIDE — Riverside Park South will be transformed into a sculpture garden Thursday, with large steel structures and fanciful forms emerging from long wisps of grass and jutting into the Hudson River.

The sculpture trail is the culmination of nine months of work and a string of 16-hour days by seven lucky students from the Art Students League of New York and is part of the school’s Model to Monument program, designed to teach sculptors how to create public art.  

The Parks Department has partnered with the League for this second-annual sculpture show in Riverside Park South, a small green sliver of parkland on the river between 59th and 66th streets. The exhibition will be in place for nine months, until the next class is ready to display its work. The partnership will last for at least five years, according to Greg Wyatt, the program’s master sculptor and mentor.

On Tuesday, the sculptors worked through the rain, adding last-minute touches to their sculptures and in some cases putting them together for the first time.

"We are out there rain or shine — that’s what professionals do. When the curtain goes up you better be ready," said Wyatt, who also added that the 2011 visitors were incredibly positive.

Olga Rudenko, a Harlem resident who came to sculpting after working as a historian in the Ukraine, has created two sculptures that play with the idea of female identity by using the shape of Russian nesting dolls. 

Rudenko let the setting inspire her. "The view of the Hudson River — the bench, the park — they shape the design," she said.

For many of the sculptors involved, this is their first work of public art. Rudenko also commented that she believes New York City is the most sought-after location for engaging with the public and the art world.

"I’m very excited!" she said.

Adding to the general excitement for the artists and the League is the announcement that Rockland Community College will put five of last year’s sculptures on long-term display on its campus, Wyatt said.