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The 'H' in Harlem by Bentley Meeker: Public art installation lights up Harlem
The "H" in Harlem: Bentley Meeker, The "H" in Harlem. Photography by Arnold Brower.

NEW YORK, NY.- The neighborhood of Harlem, and West Harlem in particular, has a rich cultural history and has had a tremendous impact on the arts in all of New York City. The past five years have seen an increasingly rapid expansion of art, design and business in the community, and Harlem resident and artist Bentley Meeker has witnessed the transformation first-hand. In 2012, several Harlem community concerns approached him seeking his involvement to help celebrate the vitality and cultural strength of the area and honor its legacy as it continues to evolve. From these requests was borne the idea to create a large-scale, public art installation titled The “H” in Harlem.

This project literally illuminates the area from June 25 through September 25, 2014 with a giant letter “H”, surrounded by an oval, aluminum truss, suspended from the viaduct situated at 12th Avenue and 125th Street. In keeping with Meeker's past work, there is juxtaposition of differing light sources within the work itself. The oval is comprised of 30 white LED lights while the “H” itself is lighted by white full spectrum plasma lighting fixtures. The “H” in Harlem was designed and engineered in conjunction with and certified by Theta Structural Engineers, and the structure itself is engineered to withstand hurricane force winds. All light fixtures are weather resistant.

According to Meeker, The “H” in Harlem “provides a bold creative statement that is intended to be a city-wide beacon for everything that makes West Harlem, and Harlem at large, great. But most importantly, what I am hoping is that this installation will bring attention to a community that is eager to embrace economic growth and positive social change while still celebrating its cultural heritage and diversity and strength.”

With the support of four main neighborhood entities––Manhattan Community Board 9 (MCB9), the 125th Street Business Improvement District, West Harlem Art Fund and the New York City Department of Transportation––this project is a temporary landmark and public art work for residents, New Yorkers and international visitors alike.

The Reverend Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 9 (MCB9), stated that "125th Street has such a rich history as a major hub in Manhattan and has continued to be the lifeline of economic development in Harlem. It's longevity and sustainability will be symbolized along with the great cultural diversity that has been woven into a magnificent legacy. Manhattan Community Board 9 is thankful to all those who have been so instrumental and collaborative in making the installation possible. The illumination of the ‘H’ in West Harlem will be reflective of the promise and potential still evolving in our beloved district.”

Savona Bailey-McClain of West Harlem Art Fund added that "art, design and technology are slowly becoming a part of Harlem's everyday scene. And having such a premiere artist create this marvelous art installation for the people of Harlem, shows that New Yorkers are beginning to believe in our community too."

Barbara Askins, President & CEO of 125th Street Business Improvement District (BID), explained that the “H” installation “will also tie in with the BID's ongoing effort to organize the West 125th Street business community and address the issues in that area that impact business. Two of the major goals of this effort are to increase pedestrian traffic west of Morningside Avenue and to better connect this area with 125th Street's bustling central core. The ‘H’ will greatly enhance these efforts, and the BID cannot wait to see this beautiful piece of art and its positive impact on our community and businesses.”

Born in Roanoke, VA in 1967, Bentley Meeker is an artist living and working in Harlem, New York. Past notable shows have included lighting for the temples at Burning Man in 2011 and 2013, a solo show at Gallery 151, the opening installation at the Southampton Center and "Flame to Now" at Gallery nine5. His special exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art, "Flame to Now IV", involved five large-scale overhead light rigs, each focusing on the five most common forms of artificial lighting.

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