OPENING PROCESSION FOR THE RAIL YARDS SECTION
The High Line, NYC. September 20, 2014
CONCEPT & DESIGN: Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles
EVENT PRODUCER: Gonzalo Casals, Director of Programs, Education, and Community Outreach for Friends of the High Line
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Solana Chehtman
ON-SITE DIRECTOR: Lake Simons
ARTISTIC ASSOCIATES: Andrea Lomanto and Michelle Melo
In 2014, The High Line, New York's celebrated elevated park, inaugurated its final span, extending public access to the former West Side rail line over the Penn Rail Yards along the Hudso River, and up to 34th Street.
Friends the High Line invited PAW to design a procession to mark the opening of the park’s third section, extending its path over the Rail Yards up to 34th Street. Gonzalo Casals, FHL’s Director of Public Programs, envisioned a neighborhood event that would involve local residents in the design process and offer them the opportunity to take very first steps onto the new span. Over the course of several weeks, PAW led many town hall meetings to gather stories, images, and perspectives on the High Line, and far West Side neighborhoods through which it runs.
In August, these personal histories and reflection took on physical form through a series of free drop-in workshops at Westbeth Center for the Arts. Drawing from the structural aesthetics of the High Line and the surrounding industrial architecture, participants created giant railroad signal lights, whose lenses were illuminated with stained-glass vignettes exploring a treasury of West Side stories. Iconic images captured the full range of a neighborhood’s evolving ethos, evoking meat-packing plants and disco clubs, Florent and von Furstenberg, longshoreman and drag queens, liners and diners, and much more.
The procession began at the southern end of the High Line, led by an airborne 1930 locomotive and fabled West Side Cowboy. At each stop a different contingent of marchers joined the growing procession, identified by colored silk banners and led by giant totemic figures surrounded by long banners of silk. As each group ascended to the park, a new chapter of West Side vernacular history was introduced: Movers and Makers; Meat, Markets,& Malllowmars; On the Waterfront; The Wild West Side; and Vision & Re-Vision. Each krewe formed a corrdior on the narrow path to greet the next, and when last group sashayed down the line, everyone let loose in wild circle dance. Ultimately more than 500 local residents, artists, activists, and community members – along with the occasional movie star and Senator – came on board to make an unforgettable inaugural journey to 34th Street.
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