WSA Statement Against the Ai Weiwei Installation under the Washington Square Park Arch

To Public Art Fund:

The Board of Directors of the Washington Square Association, Inc, a civic organization since 1906, strongly requests that the Public Art Find withdraw its plans to erect the Weiwei installation, part of “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” under the Washington Square Arch in the park. Our reasons are:

1) The installation will make impossible the erection, under the arch, of our holiday tree that traditionally goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and stays until mid-January. It illuminates the darkness with sparkling white lights, and serves as a welcome to people walking or bussing down Fifth Avenue. Over a thousand people in our community gather for the tree lighting and singing early in December and for caroling on Christmas Eve. It is festive and beloved by our neighbors and a shining symbol for all who live or walk along Fifth avenue since 1924.

2) The monumental Arch is a work of art in itself. It does not need to be politicized with the proposed installation. The shape is grand and sculptural, as are the statues of George Washington. We feel that the integrity of its design would be compromised by Mr. Weiwei’s art work. This installation sets a dangerous precedent that one of New York City's most recognized monuments and pieces of art can be decorated and co-opted for 4 months at a time.

3) The project was not built with the collaboration of the neighborhood.  We were presented with final designs without input and the community board meeting is being held just days before you break ground.   The feedback of the community in such a long-standing and disruptive project should have been more intrinsic to the process, which an organization such as the Public Arts Fund should know given its history.

We would like to also state that we have no objection to Mr. Weiwei’s piece in itself, but only to its placement on the arch that will also block and diminish the annual seasonal celebrations, including the Children’s Halloween Parade and the Sukkot house that take place in that vicinity.

Respectfully yours,

Trevor Sumner, President

The Washington Square Association