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Socrates Sculpture Park

Until 1986, the site of the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, was an illegal riverside landfill, abandoned and ugly. A group of local artists got together and decided to turn the area into a park and outdoor museum.  In the summer, Socrates hosts a free outdoor cinema featuring international films and sometimes live music. All are invited to bring a picnic and a blanket, and watch the film starting at dusk. Also throughout the summer, Socrates offers sculpture and art classes for all ages, tai chi and yoga on Saturday mornings until September 30 (all which are also free).

The park foundation awards several artists a residency each year. They may work on site, and have the opportunity to display extremely large scale work, the only location like it in New York. The sculptures change about every 6 months. Visitors are invited to look, play, climb, learn, photograph and let their dogs run around the sculptures and park.

The stats aside, the park is totally amazing. Not only is it an actual grassy space with trees, but it has a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline and East River. There are a few meandering paths and river overlooks that SOME people might deem “romantic” (yes, there are stupid kissing couples everywhere). A walk through the park really creates a sense of detachment from the hustle and bustle of New York. The sea smells like the sea, the trees are thick in areas and private, the space is open and lush. How can this be New York?

The park is also site of three controversial “politically correct ghetto kids” sculptures by John Ahearn. In 1989, Ahearn, a South Bronx resident, was commissioned to make three sculptures that would sit in front of the police station. Ahearn cast real residents,  a junkie, a hustler and a street kid, all of whom were black. The public found the sculptures offensive, and accused Ahearn of being a racist. They were removed, but are now permanently on view near the park’s workshops, having weathered badly with age. Side note- John Ahearn is the twin of “Wildstyle” director Charlie Ahearn.

Who: John Ahearn

What: Socrates Sculpture Park

Where: 3205 Vernon Boulevard, Queens

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2 Responses to “Socrates Sculpture Park”
  1. Andrea Kahn says:

    Did I see this at the Montclair museum last year? : )

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  1. […] up the Bronx, involving the locals, rather than the pretention of the gallery scene further south. Ahearn’s sculptures can also be found at Socrates Sculpture Park. His brother Charlie Ahearn is known for directing Wild […]



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