Prospect Park monument tour
Visit a huge open-air sculpture garden, also known as Brooklyn's biggest park.
Sun Jun 21 2009
Corralling kids into a museum on a July day is an arduous undertaking that's usually met with groans. Good thing the city overflows with a perfect cultural compromise: outdoor sculpture. On a recent Saturday, my five-year-old son, Alex, and I scoped out the offerings in and around Prospect Park. Read on for our animal-themed itinerary (including beastly snacks).
We ease into an artsy state of mind with a spin on the park's three-row carousel. I ask Alex to take a close look at the horses, carved in Brooklyn in 1912 by Charles Carmel. My boy admires the colors, the smooth wood and the topless mermaid. I ask him why he likes her, and he says he's just "interested" in her (and so it begins...). Pit stop We dine on animal crackers.
Alex is taken with a series of enormous topiary-frame animal sculptures (Mags Harries, 1993) that pop up among the boxwoods near the Wildlife Center. The suction cups on the huge octopus impress him. "Look how many circles they had to make," he tells me.
We head over to Lioness and Cubs (Victor Peter, 1899), outside the zoo's main entrance. I ask Alex how it makes him feel, and he says with a sigh, "It's a little like falling in love." Pit stop Sea lion feeding.
In the zoo's rowdy education center, we pause to peer at a white marble statue called Boy and Dog (1866), carved by Karl Muelle. Alex comments on the boy's nudity (what can I say? The kid is drawn to the human form) and the statue's smoothness.
We walk over to Brooklyn Central Library, where we stare up at the spread-winged, cast-zinc eagle above the entryway, a sculpture that once graced the offices of the bird's namesake newspaper. Alex appreciates the heroic underlighting, and later declares the piece his favorite.
We brave traffic to get to the Grand Army Plaza arch; Alex has assured me there are "cowboys" inside it. Sure enough, sitting opposite each other are bronze renderings of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant on horseback, sculpted by William Rudolf O'Donovan and Thomas Eakins. Alex is pleased with himself and correctly identifies one of the cowboys. Pit stop We go to the adjacent farmers' market and prey on slow-moving baked goods.
More eagle action: A bird, conceived in 1901 by Frederick William MacMonnies, tops each of the four columns at the park's entrance on Prospect Park West and Flatbush Avenue. My son declares them awesome. "I like eagles," he explains, "especially bald ones."