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Mosaic Benches at Grants Tomb

About this listing

Colorful community art project

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Morningside Heights
Public Art, Gathering Place

Place Matters Profile

By Breanne Scanlon

National history and public art intersect at the General Grant National Memorial in Riverside Park in the form of seventeen mosaic benches. The colorful benches wrap around the exterior of the building, providing a stark contrast to the austere mausoleum. Since their creation in 1972, the benches and their relation to Grants Tomb have been flashpoints for debate about the role and value of public art.

After serving as President of the United States from 1869 to 1877, Ulysses S. Grant retired to New York City. He died of throat cancer in 1885, and the General Grant National Memorial, where he and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are buried, was dedicated in 1897 at 122nd Street at Riverside Drive. In 1972, the National Park Service (NPS) and CITYarts, a local arts organization, jointly funded the creation of seventeen continuous mosaic benches around the General Grant National Memorial,...

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Sources

Ronald Fleming and Renata Von Tscharner, Placemakers (Harcourt, Brace, Janovich, 1987)

New York Times: "Benches at Grants Tomb Getting Mosaic Touch," Sept. 12, 1973; "Skirmish at Grants Tomb Over Benches," July 23, 1979; "Design Notebook, " Paul Goldberger, Aug, 16, 1979; "Mosaic Benches Face Unseating at Grants Tomb," Mar. 30, 1997; "Dust-Up Over Center for Grants Tomb," Aug. 1, 2004.

Interview with Michael Gotkin by Breanne Scanlon for Place Matters, Apr, 14, 2008

E-mails from Tsipi Ben-Haim, April 2008

Websites: CITYarts (www.cityarts.org/funding.html) & the National Park Service website for General Grant National Memorial (http://www.nps.gov/gegr/)

Nominations

Tom Goodridge

A community art project that prods my imagination and reminds me that common people compose this world, not the U.S. Grants.


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