Why I'm Working With the Boys and Girls Club to Create 'Flexible Public Art'

Working as an artist, there is constant exercise—in some way—of the mind, the eyes, the legs, the hands.

Art can be a rhythmic practice. It can also be a process that breaks down rhythms into movements, evaluating the entities that make up the whole. When I began to dissect the individual pieces that make up my latest project, “Flexible Public Art,” I became aware of the importance of participation.

Flexible is an interactive public art sculptural workout area where people can stretch and exercise, or observe and think. The sculptures—in this case, pieces of workout equipment—become a physical platform for pure abstraction and experience for the participant. On first evaluation, the work stands as ridged, traditional shapes, which have been repurposed from various utilitarian objects in the public realm. Often these shapes come with object relations that divide the human body from the object. What I want to do with the sculptures is break down those types of barriers and allow for a different type of examination and participation. The experience is abstract and free. Other than laws of nature, there are no rules. The quality and character of the sculptures is fully activated upon public interaction.

Working as an artist, there is constant exercise—in some way—of the mind, the eyes, the legs, the hands. The motion from one of these entities into another allows for a limitless sequence. I believe forms of exercise can allow these feelings to exist. What was most moving was the idea that the sequences could exist in the same environment both from a spectator’s perspective and an activator's perspective.

On the particular day I came up with the idea for “Flexible Public Art,” I was watching an individual workout on similar equipment in the park. I began to notice the movements that were made rather than the support structures they were made on. While parts of the body were reacting to their new temporary state of bending and flexing, the figure was creating pure abstraction in form, and I thought the feelings associated with these movements must also feel abstract in return. As we move in and out of these associations made by our external connectors, we experience connections with our environments that help us understand our physical placements with an object. The art object opens this conversation up further by adding a timeline and history.

After considering different sites for the project, I realized the need to bring this environment into a central area. The sculptures offer an opportunity to those who pass by, and cross through the plaza everyday. The work subverts the tunnel vision we assume during commuting hours, and gives each person the option to engage physically with the sculpture. I anticipate children will be especially drawn to their colors and playful prospects.

During the design phase, it was important for me to collaborate with the Boys and Girls Club of Sunnyside and Astoria. Through a series of workshops, the students were able to create their own models and idealized equipment, and I’m excited one of the works in "Flexible" is from the Sunnyside group. I am currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the installation, which will be located in the pedestrian plaza at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard, under the elevated 7 train that connects Times Square to Flushing, Queens. More than a million people will travel through this subway stop over the duration of the install. "Flexible" is currently in fabrication and will be put in the first week of July 2013 and stay up until July 2014.

This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.