July 29, 2022 By Christian Murray
Two murals have gone up at the entrance to the footpath at Highland Park—a park that is located on the Brooklyn/Queens border and surrounds the Ridgewood Reservoir.
The artwork was painted on an onsite shipping container at the park in early July. The artwork aims to highlight the unique natural environment and infrastructure of Highland Park that is known best for the reservoir, which once provided fresh water for Brooklyn residents.
The murals were selected as part of a contest that was launched in April 2022 by NYC H2O, a group that aims to protect the city’s water ecology, with the goal of bringing attention to the Ridgewood Reservoir. The reservoir is a historic landmark, which is now surrounded by restored walkways, spaces landscaped with natural plant species, and pollinator gardens.
NYC H2O, which leads the efforts to protect and restore the native ecology of the Ridgewood Reservoir and its surroundings, uses the shipping container to store its tools used by its work crew and community volunteers to protect and improve Highland Park. The Parks Dept. recently permitted NYC H2O to keep the shipping container onsite.
The pandemic saw the park’s use triple and the work being conducted by NYC H2O has received the support of a number of council members including Sandy Nurse, Jennifer Guitérrez and Bob Holden.
“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a hidden gem for the residents of District 34 and NYC. NYC H2O’s stewardship is unique in its constant dedication to community engagement at every turn. These beautiful new murals are just another example of how they enrich not just the space itself, but the surrounding community. I’m proud to help fund and support their efforts,” Guitérrez said.
The larger mural, by Brooklyn-based artist Kate Nielsen, depicts some of the 175 bird species, including cardinals and red-wing blackbirds, that pass through on migratory routes or call the Reservoir their home year-round.
Titled “To the Birds,” the brightly-colored artwork shows the birds interacting with vines, trees, and historic reservoir infrastructure, invoking a sense of rewilding, a theme Nielsen enjoys exploring in her art practice.
“When I think about water and New York, I think of it as a precious and fragile resource. We are lucky to have enough of it, but we have to figure out how to keep it clean enough to be a sustainable and renewable resource for generations to come,” Nielsen said. “The piece celebrates the journey of NYC’s water supply as well as the journey the many bird species take within and while passing through NYC. “
The smaller mural has gone up on the doors of the shipping container and was painted by 9th grader Jasmine Huang.
“The Ridgewood Reservoir is so peaceful and calming,” said Huang.
Huang’s mural features flowers, leaves, and a city skyline, and illustrates the enduring natural features still persist even in densely populated cities like NYC.
“The new murals on NYC H2O’s volunteer trailer are a vibrant and welcome addition to the park, reflecting its natural beauty with the colorful birds and history of Highland Park’s Ridgewood Reservoir,” said NYC Parks Forest & Highland Park Administrator Portia Dyrenforth.
“We hope these murals will inspire all who see it to volunteer and care for this incredible resource.”