Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ancient Playground

Ancient Playground in Central Park does not live up to its name "ancient" because it was reopened after a long reconstruction in 2009.  However, in its design and theme, it tries...and succeeds.  My sons, as young playground aficionados, loved this playground more than any other, perhaps because it always accompanied a visit to The Metropolitan Museum (or at least I'd like to think so).  First, we'd visit the Temple of Dendur in the Met, then we'd look out of the slanted floor-to-ceiling glass wall that divides one side of the Temple of Dendur from Central Park and spot the playground directly across the street.  Lured by the images of FREEDOM they saw on the other side of the glass, in comparison to their caged experience in the adult-behavior-mandated world of the museum, they'd start rushing me out of the Met over to the replica pyramids to do what they could not freely do in the museum - run in and out of the pyramids, play hide-and-seek or Pharaoh-of-the-pyramid, and do whatever else arose in their imagination from the museum visit.  This playground also held that ever-elusive object of desire of children - the ability to hide from one's parents, by crawling into the pyramids that are just the right size for kids and too small for parents.  
The other morning, while taking an early AM bike ride, I saw the playground empty (which it never is).  I also noticed for the first time the Osborn Gates, standing at the entrance to Ancient Playground.  They, too, were added as part of the 2009 renovation.  

These cast-iron gates depict five vignettes from Aesop's Fables.  They were declared the most distinguished work of art in New York City when they were installed at the entrance to the former Osborn Memorial Playground in 1953, but due to vandalism, they were removed and put into storage in the 1970s and remained there for nearly 30 years.  

They are incredibly beautiful and, of course, are barely noticed, if at all, by the children running to get past them as quickly as possible in entering the playground, or by the attentive parents chasing after them.  Being neither myself now, I could stop and enjoy them fully.

The plaques describing the primary moral/theme of each story are -
The crane aloft surveys the world..the earthbound peacock struts and boasts.

The City Mouse and The Country Mouse

Woe to the Lamb that disputes the Wolf.

THE FOX AND THE CROW The Crow listened to the Fox's flattery & dropped the CHEESE

THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE Slow and Steady wins the Race
With or without children, this playground is a unique visit, and the Osborn Gates are worthy of a slow and steady look.

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