Garment District Alliance to present ‘Living Lantern’ – WWD

After night falls, the Garment District is more of a part of the city to be passed through than a destination. But a new public art installation to be dedicated Tuesday could stop some in their tracks.

The 14-foot-tall illuminated neon lantern will be hard to miss when it appears on Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets. Entitled “Living Lantern”, the piece was created by British design practice Neon in collaboration with light artist Frankie Boyle, who is also an advocate for mental health and neurodiversity. It will be available for viewing until February 24th and will be powered by Wireframe. Garment District Alliance President Barbara Blair and the artists will be on hand for the unveiling on Tuesday afternoon.

The wind will cause the spindle structure to open and close, encouraging light to filter from its core and animated light sequences to imbue the space with flowing colors. The installation is part of Garment District Art on the Plazas, a year-long public art program made possible through the New York City Department of Transportation Arts Program. It’s 25. GDA Vice President Jerry Scupp said, “After New Year’s everyone is pretty spent, it’s cold and a bit gloomy. We like to put out these lit things that have a little bit of warmth and hope when there’s not a lot of other public art going on.”

Such free and unexpected art often surprises some of the estimated 40,000-plus people — about 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels — who pass through the Garment District’s public squares each day, he said. With about 56 hotels in the area, foot traffic has not been as affected by the decline in office workers due to hybrid layouts as in some other Manhattan neighborhoods. As of mid-September, 49 percent of Manhattan office workers had returned to their jobs on an average weekday, and only 9 percent of employees were in the office five days a week, according to the Partnership for New York City.

On the other hand, the Garment District Alliance has been advocating with city officials to allow some office buildings and loft-style buildings on side streets to be converted to residential, but there is no plan at this time. Scupp noted how New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has publicly acknowledged the city’s housing crisis, “and the need to look not only at new development, but also at repurposing underutilized buildings,” he said.

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