One of New York City’s most elusive places is the inside of the Washington Square Park arch, which has been long closed off to the public. Until a few years ago, the interior was too unstable for public access. But a new video from the Unforgotten film series, premiering first on Untapped New York, gives you a first-hand look inside. The episode, titled “How History, Community, and Art can Define an Iconic New York City Monument,” features Sheryl Woodruff, Deputy Director of the Washington Square Park Conservancy; Nicholas Baume, Artistic & Executive Director at Public Art Fund; Karen Karbiener, Professor in the English department at New York University; and Michelle Young, the founder of Untapped New york. The video depicts everything from dance and music performances in the park to a public art installation to shots of the Arch’s interior.
Untapped New York Insiders got to attend a live virtual screening of the Unforgotten film with creator Aaron Asis. You can watch a recording of this event in the Insiders on-demand archive, along with over 100 other past virtual experiences! Become an Insider today to gain free access to the video archive and upcoming live in-person and virtual events.
The Washington Square Arch was built in 1892 to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration in the heart of Greenwich Village. The arch was designed by architect Stanford White as a permanent monument in Washington Square Park. The Arch is a majestic marble structure and stands as one of the city’s most iconic civic landmarks.
Inside the Washington Square Arch
Unforgotten Films was created by New York-based artist Aaron Asis (Untapped New York’s Artist-in-Residence) in collaboration with Green Ghost Studios and with media support from Untapped New York, funding support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs / Brooklyn Arts Council, and funding support from Likeminds to explore a series of inaccessible landscapes throughout New York City. At our event, see inside the iconic Washington Square Arch, with shots of its spiral staircase designed by Guastavino, a large cavernous landing inside, and the rooftop of the arch.
The episode captures the diversity and the “greater city” within the park through interviews and B-roll scenes of daily life. The episode gives viewers a bit of a history lesson as well; the park was built atop a potter’s field with approximately 20,000 people buried by 1825. Washington Square Park was opened two years later as a military parade ground, which people used to congregate. The Arch was one of the final additions to the park after the fountain in the 1850s. The Arch has a spiral staircase inside that lead to the roof, giving the rare viewer a 360-degree look at Manhattan (access inside and atop was provided through a special joint event between Untapped New York and NYC Parks in 2019 thanks to former Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver).
In the episode you will learn about the time Marcel Duchamp and other Dadaists illegally climbed to the top of the Arch and declared it an independent republic. Fast forward to the modern era, and the episode also dives into artist Ai Weiwei‘s 2017 sculpture “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” which served as a commentary on the increasing hostility towards immigrants nationwide. Ai integrated his sculpture into the shape of the arch, which the episode suggests reinforced the diversity and openness of people from all walks of life.
“Washington Square Park certainly is a cultural center and folks will rally either around the fountain or around the arch itself.” Sheryl Woodruff, Deputy Director of the Washington Square Park Conservancy, says in the video. “It’s been the site of protests, it’s been the site of incredible cultural activity in a place where you can feel the city’s presence very strongly,” Karen Karbiener of NYU and the Walt Whitman Initiative, continues.
On June 2 at 12 p.m., join us as we screen the latest installment in the Unforgotten film series. This time, filmmaker Aaron Asis tackles one of New York’s Iconic landmarks. This event is free for Untapped New York Insiders. If you’re not a member, become one now (and use the code JOINUS to get your first month free).
After the screening, join a discussion with Asis and Untapped New York founder Michelle Young to learn more about the film, the Arch, and its place in the city. Learn how the Arch was commandeered by early 20th Century artists to declare Greenwich Village as its own republic. This event is free for Untapped New York Insiders. If you’re not a member, become one now (and use the code JOINUS to get your first month free).
Inside the Washington Square Arch
Unforgotten Films is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by Brooklyn Arts Council.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Washington Square Arch!