Alan Cohen (web text and blogger)
Alan worked in education all his professional life, first as a school psychologist, then as college professor, where he taught a variety of courses including one on Central Park. A Brooklyn native, Alan grew up exploring another Olmsted and Vaux masterpiece, Prospect Park. He fell in love with Central Park when he was newly married. After waiting for tickets at the Park’s Delacorte Theater, he would enjoy a romantic picnic with his wife on a blanket (on the dustbowl that was then the Great Lawn) and then watch in awe as the performers took to the stage with the magnificent Vista Rock and Belvedere Castle in the background. Alan began to volunteer for the Central Park Conservancy as a Greeter Guide and became an official tour guide in 2012. He is also a licensed New York City Sightseeing Guide. For more about Alan's tours, email him at Take a Walk New York.
Lyall Chandler Croft (web text and blogger)
It was his business, Boston Bike Tours, that led to Lyall’s appreciation and interest in public memorials. Developing and leading hundreds of bicycle tours for visitors of Boston, Lyall’s awareness of the interesting stories behind the memorials in Boston grew. A life-long learner, licensed educator, and history major with an entrepreneurial spirit, his curiosity led to more in-depth research on outdoor public art. Moving to New York City did not quell this interest. Employment as a teacher, becoming a licensed tour guide, and later working in Central Park, Lyall’s interests gyrated towards the statues and memorials of New York City. Thus research began specifically on Central Park statues. Lyall regards the memorials of Central Park to be one of the finest groupings of early American outdoor sculptural art together in one locale. For more information on the tours led by Lyall, email him at Email Lyall
Deborah Harley (web developer)
Deborah began her career as a print graphic designer before being diverted to what was then something brand new: the web. An early web designer and developer, she still works in the field. When she moved to New York City in 2007 and made her home just a few blocks from Central Park, she quickly became enthralled by the Park and began to volunteer with the Central Park Conservancy. For seven years she was one of the Conservancy’s tour guides. Deborah’s passion has always been history -- the stories of people and how their lives and events continue to affect us today. Naturally curious and probing, she has explored interests ranging from ancient history to Romanticism and to, of course, New York. Deborah is a licensed NYC tour guide
Laurie Lewis (blogger and copy editor)
Laurie has been an editor and writer her entire professional life, specializing in medicine. A native of Chicago, she moved to New York City in 1984 to take a position as a staff writer for a medical journal and found herself jobless within a few months. That’s when she started a freelance writing and editing business, which continued strong for 30 years. Although now calling herself retired from that business, Laurie continues to bring her writing and editing skills to projects of interest, such as this collaboration. She is the author of the award-winning book What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants. Laurie has been a volunteer tour guide for the Central Park Conservancy since 2007. She enjoys showing visitors around the Park so much that she earned a New York City sightseeing guide license, which allows her to offer tours to other favorite places in her adopted home. For information about her tours, see www.takeawalknewyork.com or email her at her tour address.
Harvey Kopel (photography)
Harvey has been interested in photography since high school in Dallas, Texas, where he became the photographer for the school newspaper and annual. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a major in photography from Ohio University, he became staff photographer for Army News Features and The Army Information Digest. After moving to New York, Harvey operated his own video post-production company, Edit Decisions, Ltd., for over 30 years, followed by 10 years editing news at NBC and ABC. Harvey has exhibited his still photography with the New York Sierra Club Photo Committee and Photographers and Imaging. He is a volunteer tour guide with the Central Park Conservancy.
Central Park in Bronze celebrates the statues and ornamental art in the Park.
This website offers:
an alphabetical listing of the art, with thumbnail photos to help you find the piece you want to learn about
quick facts such as the location, artists, and materials, as well as interesting stories about each work
multiple photos of each work of art, including close-ups and views in different seasons
maps to help you locate the statues and find the nearest transit stops
blog posts with more in-depth discussion of the art of the Park, written by different members of our team and by guest bloggers
the opportunity to purchase photos (through the Contact tab)
the opportunity to arrange for a custom tour of the art (through the Contact tab)
The website does what plaques and audio guides do in a museum: it tells you about the objects on display. In the Statues section, we have done our best to provide accurate, unbiased information about the art. The blog posts are different. They represent the views of the individual blogger and may range from musings about temporary installations, little-known stories or controversies about the art or artists, or personal vignettes.
If you are as interested in the art of Central Park as we are, you may want to go beyond this website. Maybe you would like to purchase photos that you see on this site. Photos make great keepsakes and gifts, but there is nothing like seeing the art in person. So we plan to offer tours. We can tailor a tour of one to two hours that covers the section of the Park or type of art that most interests you. You can find out more about purchasing photography or arranging for tours by clicking the Contact tab.
If you subscribe to the blog, you will be notified via email when we post new blogs and additions to the website. We will not sell or give your email information to anyone.
Finally, we want your help in making this website thoroughly satisfying. Use the Comment feature at the end of each blog to continue the discussion. If you prefer not to have your comments posted for public view, if you think we made a factual error, or if you have a story you would like to share, use the Contact tab to reach us.
Central Park in Bronze is a collaboration among tourist guides who love Central Park and especially enjoy making the Park and its many forms of art accessible to visitors.
About Central Park
Except for the rock outcrops of Manhattan mica schist, Central Park is an entirely designed, man-made work of landscape art. Think of it as the country’s first theme park, with nature as the theme. The site it occupies --- 843 acres between 59th Street on the south, 110th Street on the north, Fifth Avenue on the east, and Central Park West on the west --- had been likened to an industrial waste site. By the 1850s there were about 1600 people in all living on the site. This included a thriving village of about 260 people, many of them African American, living in the West 80s, and a convent and school towards the northeast end of the soon-to-be park. The site was also home to squatters and nuisance industries, which polluted the soil, and many pigs. The schist was a dominant feature of the land; there were few trees and much swampy land.
New York State and City officials decided to locate the Park where it is because the government already owned a portion of the land, bought for reservoirs for the Croton aqueduct system. The site’s central location on Manhattan Island and the expense of converting the rocky, swampy land into building lots were further considerations. After buying out the former landowners under the law of eminent domain, the buildings and people were removed over a few years. In 1857, while the parkland was being cleared, a contest was held to determine what the Park would become. Would it be a formal landscape, like a geometric English royal garden, or something more like an amusement park? The winners of the design contest, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, in their Greensward Plan, envisioned varied landscapes that provided an escape from the crowded, bustling city. Their plan included rambling paths that would take visitors to pastoral landscapes characterized by open areas covered in grass and punctuated with a few trees (greenswards) as well as formal landscapes that are clearly man-made and meant as gathering places. What they were most proud of were their picturesque landscapes, woodlands that resemble scenery one could find in the White Mountains or Catskills.
American-born Olmsted and the British-born Vaux wanted nature and its restorative powers to be the dominant features of the Park, not architecture, not statues. They understood that visitors to the Park would need services, so anything that was built had to be beautiful but subservient to the landscape. Olmsted and Vaux valued rusticity and Victorian design in the buildings and arches that were erected. At the time the Park was being built, 1858 to 1873, other tastes and values were emerging in New York. Competing architectural styles, like the more formal neo-classical style of Richard Morris Hunt, lead to grand buildings and memorial works that both beautified the city and spoke to the transformation of New York. The city was morphing from a commercial success, but an unkempt, ugly place, to a world-class city on par with the grand European capitals. In this context of changing tastes and a desire to beautify the city, prominent New Yorkers, fraternal organizations, and groups of immigrants wanted to donate art, like the Eagles and Prey sculpture, as well as pieces honoring their countrymen, like the busts of Schiller and Humboldt. Central Park in Bronze features over 70 such works of art now on display.
Central Park is now both a masterpiece of 19th century art as well as an outdoor gallery in which works from 1850 to newly-made contemporary art can be seen, touched, and even climbed on. Come explore and savor the art with us.
About the Central Park Conservancy
By the 1970s, fiscal crises in New York City had led to severe cutbacks in funding for maintenance of all parks. Realizing that the health of Central Park was intimately tied to the livability of the city, a group of local residents created the Central Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization, in 1980. Its initial function was to raise the funds needed to restore and improve the Park. Now the Conservancy operates under a contract with the City of New York to manage Central Park. The City remains the “owner” of Central Park and is responsible for enforcing rules and regulations, overseeing concessions, maintaining the roads, issuing permits for sports and special events, and deciding what art may be placed in the Park.
In addition to mowing the lawns, maintaining the ballfields, caring for the trees, cleaning the bathrooms, and removing graffiti, the Central Park Conservancy is responsible for maintaining the art in the Park. Conservancy artisans inspect, clean, and make minor repairs to the statues and ornamental art on an ongoing basis. The Conservancy also oversees major restoration projects, like the renovation of Grand Army Plaza, including the regilding of the General Sherman statue. Virtually all of Central Park, including the artwork, has been restored since the Conservancy’s founding.