Friday, June 25, 2010

Fun Fact Friday: Island Hopping

When you think of New York, perhaps some islands come to mind. Two of the city’s boroughs are islands (Manhattan - and Staten - ). The iconic Statue of Liberty sits on an island (aptly named Liberty Island) which is near another famous island – named after its former owner, one Mr. Samuel Ellis. If you’re into crime (and who isn’t?) you may be familiar with Riker’s Island. If you like rickety roller-coasters and hot dogs (and who doesn’t?) you probably know of Coney Island.

But have you been to Joan of Arc Island?

I hadn’t, until a recent Sunday morning walk up Riverside Drive took me there. The “island” label is something of a misnomer – this little oasis is an island more in the “traffic median” sense, than an actual piece of land surrounded by water. Nevertheless, it’s worth the climb out of Riverside Park (near 93rd Street) to check it out some time.

Joan of Arc Island #1

In the center of the island is an over-life-size statue of Joan of Arc, riding her horse into battle. A plaque nearby revealed some interesting history – the statue (the first in NYC to depict a non-fictional female) was carved by a female sculptor! A bit unusual for its time, circa 1915, when sculpting wasn’t really a woman’s game. In fact, when the sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, initially submitted the first model of this sculpture to the Paris Salon, the judges there were incredulous that such a work could have been done by a woman on her own.

(This was years before the “We girls can do anything, right Barbie?” ad campaign dispelled myths about women’s capabilities once and for all.)

Joan of Arc Island #2

The sculpture was commissioned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Joan of Arc’s birth. It’s surrounded by trees, screening out the residences on Riverside Drive and creating a semi-secluded, semi-shady spot that’s lovely for drinking your morning coffee and reflecting upon Joan of Arc’s sacrifice, Anna Hyatt Huntington’s trail-blazing, and/or Barbie’s impeccable day-to-night look.

Whatever floats your boat on this island.

No comments: