A new lighting system would create a canvas for rotating light art installations.

The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting, a Harlem – based architectural lighting design studio, are embarking on an ambitious project to permanently illuminate the entire length of the 12th Avenue viaduct in West Harlem. The 12th Avenue viaduct runs from 125th Street to 135th Street near the Hudson River and adjacent to the Henry Hudson Parkway. This artistic endeavor would complement the new campus Columbia University is building from 125th Street to 135th Street, as well as new streetscaping along West 125th Street from Old Broadway to Marginal Street by the NYC Economic Development Corporation.


“We’re proud and excited to be part of this initiative to bring public light art to the West Harlem neighborhood,” says Paul Gregory, founding principal of Focus Lighting. “It’s a unique opportunity to honor one of New York’s beloved architectural landmarks in a way that is graceful and respectful of its historical value. Our goal is to create elegant static light art, like a painting in a museum – as opposed to flashy animated light shows.”


The light-based project – ARCHES OF HARLEM, creates a canvas for various artists to collaborate with the design team and translate their art into light. The viaduct would become a tourist destination and offer much needed economic development for local residents. Focus Lighting’s proposed installation will use programmable light fixtures attached to each of the viaduct’s 26 arches, with a new artist-inspired design projected onto the viaduct every three months.


The West Harlem Art Fund and Focus Lighting have met with several city agencies and elected officials. The team is currently developing plans to conduct a pilot scheme where the newly proposed lighting will be tested on one arch at each end of the viaduct. Artwork reflecting local history and cultural appreciations is also being considered for the project.


Executive Director & Chief Curator Savona Bailey-McClain of the West Harlem Art Fund shares, “the ARCHES OF HARLEM will allow our community to grow artistically. Many efforts have been stymied in Harlem because of limited space and resources. Now, we have room to explore and collaborate with collections, galleries and artists both locally and around the world.”



It is Unique

The 12th Avenue viaduct is a perfectly symmetrical, 70-foot tall structure whose arches repeat over 25 times. Architecturally, the viaduct is itself a work of art and an ideal canvas for the proposed light art installations.

No Visual Competition

Compared to many of New York City’s existing tourist destinations, Times Square, the Highline, and Rockefeller Center for example, the West Harlem area is quiet, with little visual competition.

Easy Installation

85% of the equipment is attached to one easily accessible location about 15 feet from the ground on each of the 26 arches.

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