NYC officials install art exhibit at Staten Island construction site

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A St. George construction site will be home to a new art installation until early December, city officials announced Monday.

Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Public Artist in Residence Melanie Crean designed the piece, titled “Reify,” that will be on display at the Richmond County Surrogate Court House in St. George, which is currently undergoing renovations to its entrance at 18 Richmond Terr.

The installation will be at the site until Dec. 10, and followed the artist’s engagement with local young people who described their experiences with the justice system.

“I really respect the work done with the project participants, who took on the difficult challenge of voicing personal opinions and experiences related to justice, and then strategizing how to translate these into photography that would be seen in such a large public forum,” Crean said. “I’m grateful that they remain involved in the project and look forward to continued discussions with them about the relation of creativity and the future of justice in Staten Island.”

Images displayed on a construction fence in front of the site and between the courthouse’s six stone pillars are meant to convey the idea of people forging connections with each other across divides.

Five banners between the courthouse pillars measure 20-feet high by 6-feet wide, and additional 50-foot long by 7.5-feet high print is placed on the construction fence.

“I especially enjoyed sharing experiences and hearing the perspective of people from different backgrounds about the justice system, and then seeing those ideas be represented as images through tableaus,” said Project Participant Manya Sabu, one of the young people who spoke with Crean.

Crean, who has been with DDC since late 2021, is part of a Department of Cultural Affairs program that embeds artists within New York City agencies in order to propose creative solutions to civic challenges, according to DDC.

St. George Courthouse art installation Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

Workers install new steps at the Richmond County Surrogate Court in St. George on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Paul Liotta)

City officials allocated $5.2 million in March to restore the dilapidated features of the site that once housed the Island’s State Supreme Court at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Schuyler Street.

Conditions at the courthouse’s front steps have kept its main entrance closed for years as officials have promised impending repairs that never came to fruition.

Restoration work is underway on the building’s front limestone stairs, brass handrails and other façade items that have fallen into disrepair. The work will also include a new iron picket fence along Schulyer Street, four new exterior lights along the building designed to match the existing fixtures in the area, a new sidewalk and curbs.

Workers could be seen at the site Tuesday installing the new staircase, and city officials expect the project to be done next year.

“DDC is proud to participate in the city’s public arts programs while rehabilitating this important civic structure,” DDC Commissioner Thomas Foley said. “This project is an excellent example of how we are able to use construction sites to engage New Yorkers even while our projects continue.”

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