Chelsea is a neighborhood synonymous with art in New York. Yet on a recent morning, when I wanted to visit a musical art installation I had read about, I found myself climbing the steps not to a building but to a park that winds through the air 30 feet above the ground—the High Line.
A former elevated rail line built in the 1930s, the High Line was in disarray when a group of Chelsea residents suggested a novel recycling idea—turn it into a space that the public could enjoy. And so the High Line was saved and reborn.
Black-eyed Susans growing amongst the tracks.
Strolling along the High Line.
Currently running from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, the High Line is like no other park in the city. Wide wooden paths are bounded on each side by sturdy plantings that grow amongst the original rail tracks. On one side, visitors can get close-up views of architectural features hard to discern from street level while views of the Hudson River open up between the buildings on the other.
"The River That Flows Both Ways" by Spencer Finch.
Besides the art of the park itself, there are installations like the amazing “The River That Flows Both Ways” by Spencer Finch. Composed of 700 panes of glass, each pane represents the color of the water during a 700-minute boat trip on the Hudson. No matter how many times I visit, I always find myself stopping to gaze at the variety of colors and marvel at the great beauty that water holds.
But my interest that day was in the newest installation, “A Bell for Every Minute” by Stephen Vitiello. Every minute, speakers in the tunnel near the 14th Street entrance play a different bell that Vitiello recorded from around the city, culminating on the hour with a combination of select bells. From the lush peal of the Trinity Church bells to the tiny ting of Cara’s bicycle bell from the Upper East Side to the apropos closing bell of the Stock Exchange at the 59th minute, the bells remind us how much their sound contributes to the heartbeat of the city. I have always loved the sound of bells, especially church bells, and so I sat and listened to them all, amazed at how even the tiniest clang can be completely beautiful.
If you go, try to visit in the morning before it gets too hot. And when you’re done, don’t forget Chelsea Market located nearby. The former Nabisco factory has been converted into a home for a variety of restaurants and food shops; it’s the perfect place to stop and grab some lunch. And if you listen carefully, you’ll probably hear a bell ringing somewhere.
Photos by Michele.
Photos by Michele.