glory road-grace plaza-POPS-Midtown-NYC-Untapped Cities-Cassandra Munoz-001The Grace Building’s grey plaza got a splash of red in an Arts Brookfield Commission

Remember when the Occupy Wall Street movement took over Zuccotti Park? Police and Brookfield private security were unable to arrest protesters because the park is a privately owned public space (POPS for short). This use of the park brought into question the management policies of various POPS around the city that block public access, in direct violation of their agreements with the city. With ambiguous regulations, POPS have been largely unsuccessful at being public.

What is less well-known are the activities of Arts Brookfield, a cultural extension of the Brookfield Office Properties company (the very same proprietor of Zuccotti Park), which owns 12 properties in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The program started in 1988 and they are currently focusing on putting POPS to use by hosting contemporary art pieces throughout the year, an initiative that the city has begun to push for recently. Brookfield stands alone in the efforts of private companies to bring art to POPS in NYC, though their aim thus far veers more towards the attraction of tenants and good press than philanthropy.

glory road-audience-grace plaza-POPS-Midtown-NYC-Untapped Cities-Cassandra Munoz-001The audience and many passers-by take in The Nerve Tank’s performance of Glory Road

Grace Plaza (43rd Street and 6th Avenue behind the Grace Building) is the location of the new Arts Brookfield sponsored production, Glory Road. The narrative is based on the myth of Sisyphus who is condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder up a mountain from dawn till dusk only to see it fall back down again at the end of the day.

glory road-grace plaza-POPS-Midtown-NYC-Untapped Cities-Cassandra Munoz (2)-001
Persephone oversees a set change in Glory Road at Grace Plaza

Glory Road features Persephone, clad in red, haltingly moving about the stage (or red carpet) as Sisyphus rolls a metal sphere from one side to the other. Hooded guards stand watch as Persephone’s voice speaks directions from speakers in the “boulder” to viewers in Grace Plaza. In the background televisions are playing footage of Persephone: her face comes in to focus, the camera zooms in, an eye blinks, every so often there is a cascade of rose-colored skirts. After about 20 minutes, Sisyphus snags up a microphone and begins to sing a song that includes the very appropriate lyrics “woke up this morning between a rock and a hard place.” Those walking by stop and gape.

The Nerve Tank, a collaborative performance theater company based in NYC will be putting on Glory Road until September 21 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. and 4:00-6:00 p.m.

Untapped Cities contributor Monique Zamir goes into greater detail on the relationship between POPS and the Occupy movement in this article. Click here to learn about other publicly owned private spaces around Midtown.

For an interactive map of POPS in Manhattan click here.