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Central Park

Polowetski - Central Park.JPG

Charles Polowetski, "Spring in Central Park"

Most of the paintings of landscapes within New York City from the Federals Artist Project are of Central Park. It was built in 1858 in order to allow for a space where nature could occur within the city. This gave the people in New York City a place to feel connected to nature and thus was a form of what Peter Berg called reinhabitation, “undertaking the practice of living-in-pace, becoming part of a bioregion again” (62). By being able to experience what Central Park had to offer, in terms of the nature, it allowed people to start recognizing the natural aspects of their own environment.  

That's why it is interesting that out of the paintings we collected, Central Park was a reccuring location. It may be that, since so many of the artists already lived in New York City, they chose the park to capture in a painting because it showcased the land that they inhabited—it was nature in a place that seemed to lack it. In the painting at left, Charles Polowetsk’s “Spring in Central Park”, this is shown while also incorporating the importance of the city by including the city landscape in the background. There are also many people depicted which allows the sense of people gathering here to experience the nature that Central Park has to offer.

In the Federal Writers Project New York City Guide it is written of Central Park that Before going to the Zoo or taking the sloping walk to the Pond...the visitor should read: ‘It is of great importance as the first real park made in this country— a democratic development of the highest significance and on the success of which, in my opinion, much of the progress of art and aesthetic culture in this country is dependent’” (356). The people of this time, specifically the writers working for the Federal Writers Project, believed that the park was a park of art within their country and that everyone who visited should realize that. "Central Park," according to a kindred Federal Writer, "appears as a vast irregular terrain marked by outcropping rock formations, wooded areas, and many bodies of water. Deep green marks it, summer and spring, and fall brings to it a variety of color that changes day by day. The park is enclosed by stone walls, with entrance gates at frequent intervals" (350). The way this author depicts the park is by focusing on the natural and beautiful aspects of it, signifying the importance this park had to the people of this time. It is a man-made space in which to celebrate land and allow people in a time of anxiety to have a place to connect to the land, recover a sense of stability. 

It is important to be able to look at these paintings separate from the others in order to fully understand the significance that Central Park had on painters under the Federal Arts Project. The artists decided to paint this place and showcase its nature in order to try and have other people connect to a place that was so meaningful to them. Therefore, when looking at the map created, the future floodplains layer shows that Central Park is a place that would be affected. This place of beauty and feeling of stability to these people and to some today will be at risk of flooding in the near future.

Works Consulted

—Berg, Peter. "Bioregions." 1983. The Biosphere and the Bioregion: Essential Writings of Peter Berg. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Eve Quesnel. Routledge, 2015. 61-63.

—Federal Writers Project. New York City Guide. Random House, 1939. Web version at Hathitrust.