public art watch

James Turrell Skyspace Opens in Friends Seminary

The new Skyspace at the Friends Seminary school in Gramercy. Photo: John Galayda

James Turrell’s Skyspace at Friends Seminary, a private Quaker school in Gramercy, opened this week on the sixth floor. There are 85 Skyspaces around the world, and this one will be only the second publicly accessible Skyspace in the city, with the other at MoMA PS1. But because Friends Seminary is, well, a school full of kids, the installation, titled Leading, will only be open to the public while school is in session on the last Friday of each month. (The school is also committed to sharing the space with local schools and arts organizations.) And for the kids who attend the Friends Seminary, it will be a colorful escape from the classroom.

Looking up through the roof. Photos: John Galayda.
Looking up through the roof. Photos: John Galayda.
Communal wood benches line the inside of the installation for kids to lie on. Photo: John Galayda

Turrell is a practicing Quaker who donated his time and sold an artwork to help with the cost, and the school raised $3.9 million to construct it. The installation has a retractable roof that can be opened at dawn or dusk, and like other Skyspaces, it mixes artificial lights with the natural light from the opening to make the sky appear as a 3-D painting or installation. (As the New York Times reported, the Skyspace was technically approved as a “house of worship” tower, which allowed it to extend past zoning restrictions by a few feet.) Reservations are free, but with limited slots, they’re likely to go quick. The other option — to send your kid to Friends Seminary — is just a bit more expensive.

The roof can slide open during dusk and dawn. Photo: John Deptulski
James Turrell Skyspace Opens at Friends Seminary