NYC - West Village: Christopher Park - Gay Liberation
In 1979, pop sculptor George Segal was commissioned by the Mildred Andrews Fund, a private Cleveland-based foundation that supports public art, to create a work that would commemorate New York City's Stonewall Rebellion, the 1969 riot that marks the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement. The result was the first piece of public art commemorating the struggle of GLBTG people for equality, predating Amsterdam's "Homomonument" by some seven years.
The sculpture, a life-like, life-size bronze group, painted white, depicts four figures: a standing male couple and a seated female couple. One of the men holds the shoulder of his partner; one of the seated women gently touches her friend's thigh. The poses are non-dramatic, but quietly powerful, suggesting depths of love and companionship.
The idea for a sculpture to honor the gay and lesbian rights movement on the tenth anniversary of Stonewall originated with Bruce Voeller, co-founder and first executive director of the National Gay Rights Task Force and the founder of the Mariposa Foundation. The plan was to create two castings--one for New York City's Sheridan Park, near the site of the Stonewall Inn, and one in Los Angeles. However local residents opposed the plans for the installation. Instead the sculpture was installed at Stanford University, where after just a moth it was attacked with a ball-peen hammer. After being repaired, it was reinstalled only to be spray painted with the word AIDS, and vandalized again in 1994 with splattered black paint. In 1992 New York City finally agreed to place the statue in Christopher Park, where it was dedicated on June 23.
The land that is now Christopher Park was developed from 1633 to 1638 as a tobacco farm by Wouter Van Twiller, Director-General of New Netherland. Following Van Twiller's death, his land was divided into three farms: the Trinity Church and Elbert Herring farms to the south and Sir Peter Warren¡¦s farm to the north. Skinner Road was laid out along the line separating the Warren farm from the other two. This road was later renamed Christopher Street, honoring Charles Christopher Amos, an heir of a trustee to the Warren estate
Between 1789 and 1829, Christopher Street was subdivided into lots, and blocks were laid out along its length. Due to the irregular configuration of streets in Greenwich Village, blocks were not laid out according to a standard grid plan, and many oddly-shaped blocks were created. In the early 1800s, the population of Greenwich Village expanded dramatically, and the area around Christopher Street began to suffer from overcrowding. When a devastating fire tore through the area in 1835, residents petitioned the City to condemn a triangular block at the intersection of Christopher, Grove, and West 4th Streets and establish a much-needed open space on the site. On April 5, 1837 the City condemned the parcel and created Christopher Park.
Christopher Park, which is graced with a 130-year-old fence, contains two other monuments. The flagpole, erected in 1936, commemorates several of the 1861 Fire Zouaves, an elite Civil War unit that wore uniforms styled after North African tribesmen. Joseph Pollia's statue of General Philip H. Sheridan stands at the eastern end.