The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting, a Harlem-based architectural lighting design studio, are embarking on an ambitious project to permanently light the entire length of the 12th Avenue viaduct in West Harlem. The 12th Avenue viaduct runs from 125th Street to 135th Street near the Hudson River and adjacent to the Henry Hudson Parkway. This artistic endeavor would complement the new campus Columbia University is building from 125th Street to 135th Street, as well as new streetscaping along West 125th Street from Old Broadway to Marginal Street by NYC Economic Development Corporation.
“We’re proud and excited to be part of this initiative to bring public light art to the West Harlem neighborhood,” says Paul Gregory, founding principal of Focus Lighting. “It’s a unique opportunity to honor one of New York’s beloved architectural landmarks in a way that is graceful and respectful of its historical value. Our goal is to create elegant static light art, like a painting in a museum – as opposed to flashy animated light shows.”
The light-based project – the ARCHES OF HARLEM, would allow various artists to collaborate with the team and translate their works into light. The viaduct would become a tourist destination and offer much needed economic development for local residents. Focus Lighting’s proposed installation will use programmable light fixtures attached to each of the viaduct’s 26 arches. The lighting will change every three months with a new artist-inspired design projected onto the viaduct.
The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting have met with several city agencies and elected officials. The team is developing plans to conduct a pilot scheme where the newly proposed lighting will be tested on one arch at each end of the viaduct. Artwork reflecting local history or cultural appreciations is also being considered for the project.
Executive Director & Chief Curator Savona Bailey-McClain of the West Harlem Art Fund shares, “THE ARCHES OF HARLEM will allow our community to grow artistically. Many efforts have been stymied in Harlem because of limited space and resources. Now, we have room to explore and collaborate with collections, galleries and artists both locally and around the world.”
BENEFITS OF THE ARCHES OF HARLEM
It is Unique
The 12th Avenue viaduct is a perfectly symmetrical, 70-foot tall structure whose arches repeat over 25 times. Architecturally, the viaduct is itself a work of art and the ideal canvas for the proposed light art installations.
No Visual Competition
Compared to many of New York City’s existing tourist destinations, Times Square, the Highline, and Rockefeller Center for example, the West Harlem area is quiet and without much visual competition.
85% of the equipment is attached to one easily accessible location about 15 feet from the ground on each of the 26 arches.
About the Viaduct
The 12th Avenue Viaduct also known as the Riverside Drive Viaduct was built in 1900 by the City of New York. The viaduct was constructed to connect an important system of drives in Northern Manhattan — a high-level boulevard extension of Riverside Drive over the barrier of Manhattanville Valley to the former Boulevard Lafayette, which today, is north of 158th Street.
About Focus Lighting
Focus Lighting is an award-winning architectural lighting design firm located on 116th Street in New York City. Founded in 1987, Focus Lighting has worked with world-renowned architects and interior designers on projects throughout the United States, South America, Europe, China and the Middle East. With projects ranging from large entertainment and retail facilities, to hotels, museums, restaurants, and high-end residences, Focus Lighting continues to create innovative lighting designs that are tailored to each individual project. Focus Lighting designed lighting for the Entel Tower in Santiago, Chile which was the first automated color changing exterior lighting display in the world and the first building to have an automatic color-change at night. Focus Lighting also designed the Times Square Ball for its 100th and 101st anniversaries. Projects designed by Focus Lighting have received numerous lighting design awards, including twenty Lumen Awards, multiple IALD, Waterbury and ASID Awards, and Lighting Dimensions International’s “Lighting Designer of the Year” Award. For more information, visit www.focuslighting.com.
About the West Harlem Art Fund
The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. is a nineteen-year-old, public arts organization. WHAF offers exhibition opportunities for artists and creative professionals wishing to share their talent with residents living uptown and around the city. The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. showcases art and culture in open, public spaces to add aesthetic interest to our part of the city; promote historical and cultural heritage; and support community involvement in local development. McClain has installed works in Times Square, DUMBO, SoHo, Governors Island and Harlem. Noted works include The H in Harlem, Counting Sheep, Story Piles, East River Flows and Loosely Coupled.