by STIRworldJun 23, 2022
As part of the global festivities in celebration of Pride month, Roosevelt Island is now home to New York’s largest Pride flag in the form of a public installation at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park. Infusing a vibrant burst of colour to the risers of the grand staircase at the entrance to the venue - which was among the last completed works of celebrated American architect Louis Kahn - the 2022 Progress Pride Flag is a reprisal of a similar 2019 installation, but on an even grander scale, measuring over 100 feet in length and 30 feet in width. Implemented by the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy non-profit, in association with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the flag is a visual marker of solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community, making a bold statement that highlights the importance of inclusion and individual freedoms, as well as the collective efforts made to secure them for all.
This year’s flag incorporates black, brown, blue, pink, and white hues to its palette, to call attention to people of colour as well as the transgender community - both sections of society that have been victims of marginalisation for far too long. The installation is on view throughout Pride month, and is also part of a special selection of public events in honour of the 10th anniversary of the State Park, which was completed back in 2012. “Four Freedoms Park Conservancy’s mission is singular and simple: we create public programs, commission public art, and produce installations to ignite conservations about basic human rights. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, articulated these, in what now seems stunningly prescient: Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. This is what The Progress Pride Flag stands for – inclusion means inclusion in all the freedoms: from economic security to freedom from fear and of course, freedom of expression,” says Howard Axel, CEO Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, in a press statement.
Occupying the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park is a public memorial to the 32nd President of the United States, who was instrumental in the nation’s entry into the foray of the Second World War. The park derives its name from Roosevelt’s eighth State of the Union address in 1941, commonly known as the ‘Four Freedoms Speech’ which became a core ideological foundation for both the Allied war effort and the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Louis Kahn’s spatial tribute to this monumental figure in American history and the ideals he espoused, conforms to the triangular geometry of the site, with a symmetrical layout featuring rows of trees along either of the park’s sides. Culminating at the island’s southern tip - where a large bust of Roosevelt by sculptor Jo Davidson is the main focus - the landscape design of the public space employs what could be termed as forced perspectival parti towards the sculpture. Naval references are also prevalent throughout the design, where the park’s tip is meant to resemble the prow of a nautical vessel. By integrating this installation at the entrance, the park’s expanse ties together both celebrations of LGBTQIA+ freedom and essential human rights, in an open and inclusive public space.
For the purpose of unveiling this stirring tribute to the progress made by the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as the long road ahead at this symbolically significant site, the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy invited the Latinx cultural organisation and dance company Ballet Hispànico to inaugurate the festivities at the park. As one of the leading voices merging artistic endeavours and social advocacy, Ballet Hispànico is one of America’s Cultural Treasures, and among the largest Latinx organisations in the country dedicated to the upliftment of Black and Brown Latinx youth through the mediums of dance and community engagement. The organisation explores and highlights Latino cultures through dance productions, transformative dance training, and enduring community engagement experiences. Axel himself notes: “Could there be an organisation more suited to express the Freedoms than Ballet Hispánico – one of the nation’s great cultural treasures that combines artistic excellence with advocacy?”
Eduardo Vilaro, Artistic Director and CEO of Ballet Hispánico, adds in an official release, “Ballet Hispánico is thrilled to have been selected to help launch the 2022 Progress Pride Flag, an installation which aligns with our mission of representation, inclusion, and accessibility through culture and dance. As an organisation that is deeply involved in community engagement and education, and grounded in our rich history in New York City, it is an honour to be able to participate in something meant to be enjoyed by all.”
Open to the public from Wednesdays through Mondays between 9 am - 7pm, the scenic lawn of the Four Freedoms State Park is no longer just a spot for New Yorkers to commune with nature and engage in cultural programming, with this latest attraction inviting residents and tourists alike to visit for an enticing photo-op with one of the city’s largest and most visible symbols asserting LGBTQIA+ identities. Howard Axel concludes, “I hope this flag inspires New Yorkers to get outside with Pride!”