Wreath Interpretations” is an annual exhibition of artwork inspired by wreaths that is held at Central Park’s Arsenal Gallery in Manhattan. A beloved fixture of Parks Department programming, the exhibition attracts dozens of creative entries every year. Just in time for Christmas, the exhibition is now on view and runs through January 3, 2019.

This 2018 show marks the 36th year of such displays which has become a holiday tradition that attracts people en masse. Each of the three-dozen wreaths were created by artists, craftsman, designers, and other creative individuals who were selected from the shows annual open call which closes in November.

Most of the wreaths are constructed from innovative materials such as almonds, pasta, piano keys, toys, gloves and assorted hardware. The exhibition was organized thanks to the efforts of the NYC Parks’ Public Art program and most of the displayed wreaths are for sale—a portion of all sales will go towards Parks Programs.

Recently Elizabeth Masella, NYC Parks Public Art Coordinator, discussed this show via a exclusive interview.

Unique pieces and the park's department

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did the park’s department initially come up with the idea for the “Wreath Interpretation” show?

Elizabeth Masella (EM): While the origins of NYC Parks’ annual wreath show are a bit uncertain (we don’t definitively know whose idea it was initially), the first show took place in December 1982. Since then it has become an annual event that is highly anticipated by Parks employees, artists, and visitors alike.

MM: How has the show evolved since its launch 36 years ago?

EM: The show has evolved to include wreaths submitted not just by Parks employees and professional artists, but New Yorkers of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

Artists have become increasingly creative with the materials that they incorporate into their wreaths. There has especially been an uptick in artists interested in reuse and recycling, so we see several wreaths each year that use found or recycled materials.

MM: What are some of the most unique pieces you have ever seen featured?

EM: Each year there are always standout wreaths made from unusual and surprising materials.

This year, the wreath made out of piano keys is a real standout both for its design and use of a surprising material – in its abstracted form, many people don’t realize what it’s made of at first glance. There’s also a wreath made out of large foam ears painted in a variety of colors and adorned with googly eyes. The message behind the wreath is about communication, but I think the unexpected materials and imagery has drawn a lot of visitors to it. In the past, we’ve had wreaths made of everything from eyeglasses, to pencils, a frying pan, welded steel, beer cans, pill bottles, power strips, kitchen sponges, mouse traps, and neck ties, just to name a few.

Displays, exhibition, and other projects

MM: Typically, how many wreaths are displayed every year?

EM: We typically display around 40 wreaths each year, though it could be a few more or less depending on space and the size of the wreaths.

MM: How many people come to see the show and do you sell many wreaths?

EM: Over the course of the exhibition, we get hundreds of visitors from Parks employees to local residents to visiting tourists. We typically sell just a few wreaths per year?

MM: What visitors get from the show and what other projects and/or events are going on at the Parks that you would like to mention?

EM: People come back to this show year after year because it provides a lighthearted, fresh take on an iconic holiday symbol. Visitors are continually surprised and delighted by the creative wreaths that artists come up with year after year.

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