“It’s a mile-and-a-half-long line that’s a lot like a gallery in a museum…that allows you to experience the city in an extraordinary way, where the city is now the exhibit.”
–James Corner, Landscape Architect/Urban Designer
(June 9, 2014, Atlanta, GA) – Great Museums® Television’s newest documentary, “Elevated Thinking: The High Line in New York City,” begins airing nationally on public television in June 2014. Narrated by Academy Award®-winning actress Susan Sarandon, the hour-long HD film showcases one of the world’s most unusual and unlikely public parks. Opened in 2009, the High Line is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations, with nearly 5 million visitors annually.
New York City’s WNET will air the special as part of “Treasures of New York” in primetime on June 17th at 8:00pm ET.
The mile-and-a half-long High Line is like a living museum of plants – a tour de force of public landscaping – carefully curated atop an abandoned elevated railroad that was saved from the wrecking ball. Like the old freight line it replaced, the new park rises above busy streets and runs in one side of buildings and out the other, as it winds its way from the historic Meatpacking District through Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen to Hudson Yards.
The free park also serves as a neighborhood gathering space, a venue for contemporary art and dance, a social and educational center for activities of all kinds, a green space for local children to play, and a vantage point for seeing the city on display.
“The whole experience is magical. It’s slightly elevated, but not too high, so it protects you from the street, yet you feel the energy of the street,” says fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, whose global fashion house is headquartered in an old warehouse in the Meatpacking District, now New York’s hippest fashion district. “And, it is parallel to the river. That adds yet another sense of air and space and freedom and all the things we like.” Von Furstenberg and her husband IAC Chairman Barry Diller were the first major philanthropists to champion the idea of converting the elevated railroad into a “park in the sky.”
A CAREFULLY CURATED WILDERNESS
The High Line offers visitors a carefully curated world of woodlands, thickets, prairies and meadows – floating 30 feet in the air – through 22 blocks of Manhattan’s West Side. The High Line’s plantings recreate not only the look, but also the feeling of the untamed wilderness – in the middle of Manhattan. The plantings call to mind the original wildscape that had naturally taken root on the abandoned tracks from seeds that fell from train cars, were dropped by birds, or were blown in by the wind. “People think it’s wild, but everything is designed, every plant is put in place…and it looks wild,” says Piet Oudolf, the Dutch garden designer, who masterminded the High Line gardens.
“We filmed the High Line over the course of two years to capture the full glory of all four seasons,” says Chesney Doyle, co-executive producer of Great Museums. “The High Line is a rolling evolution of color, texture, and structure throughout the year. It’s amazing how quickly the plantings evolve not just month to month, but week to week.” “Elevated Thinking” showcases the fullness of summer, the crisp, fiery palette of fall, winter snowscapes, and finally the re-birth of spring.
CITY ON DISPLAY
The long, narrow High Line is also like “a gallery in a museum where the city itself is on display,” explains Great Museums’ co-executive productive Marc Doyle. “You see the Statue of Liberty looking one way and the Empire State building looking the other.”
The High Line itself is a preserved industrial artifact – an art deco monument to a bygone era. Once known as ‘the lifeline of New York City’ because it brought food products – meat, sugar, flour, eggs -directly into the factories of the industrial West Side, today’s High Line is the backbone of a revitalized West Side.
HIGH LINE ART
The High Line runs through Chelsea, which is probably the most important art district in the world, making the High Line a natural venue for contemporary artistic expression. But the High Line is nothing like a museum or a traditional white gallery cube space. “We don’t only show and commission artworks on the High Line itself, we do it on rooftops, on the sides of buildings, and down on the streets below,” says Joshua David, Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line. The High Line’s public art program features works that are experimental, ever changing, and surprising. The film features “High Line Billboard,” a 25×75 foot commercial billboard, owned by a local parking company but donated to the High Line several months a year for showcasing all sorts of creative expression.
COMMUNITY GATHERING PLACE
Narrator Susan Sarandon lives in Chelsea near the High Line. “The High Line is unique and modern,” she says in reference to the park’s innovative design. “I love that something, which was about to be discarded, has been turned it into a community gathering place and tourist attraction,” says Sarandon.
The film captures the many layers of year-round activity – for all ages – happening on and around the High Line. Each week in July and August on “Wild Wednesday” children gather to explore different nature-based topics with High Line staff and volunteers. Even park maintenance takes on an event-like quality. “Spring Cut-Back” is a four-week, all-hands-on-deck gardening marathon that attracts hundreds of volunteers who want a chance to work in the great outdoors.
THE MUSEUM IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Since 1998, Great Museums® Television’s call to action has been find the museum in your own backyard. The High Line is a perfect example. “Elevated Thinking” is the story of a grassroots effort, led by Friends of the High Line co-founders Robert Hammond and Joshua David – two neighbors who didn’t even know each other – to buck city hall and save a massive, derelict, mile-and-half-long, freight railway from demolition. Against all odds, they built a coalition of neighbors, real estate developers, philanthropists, and city officials, and the Bloomberg administration. CSX Transportation, which had purchased the High Line as part of a larger acquisition in 1998, supported the idea of repurposing the High Line and eventually donated the structure to the city. “It was a big, ugly piece of junk in the sky,” says Great Museums’ Chesney Doyle. “Now it’s a model for communities everywhere.”
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ABOUT THE HIGH LINE AND FRIENDS OF THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line is the non-profit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, and to advocate for the transformation of the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of the historic structure, which runs between West 30th and West 34th Streets.
ABOUT GREAT MUSEUMS®TELEVISION AND THE EUREKA FOUNDATION
Great Museums® is an award-winning television series celebrating America’s museum world, airing coast to coast on over 200 public television stations representing more than 85% of US households. The compelling, educational series has won more than 40 documentary television awards, including Telly Awards, Aurora Excellence Awards and nine Cine Golden Eagles. Great Museums® opens the doors of museums to millions of viewers through public television, new media and community outreach with the goal of “curating a community of learners.” Great Museums® is underwritten by the Eureka Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) foundation established to promote the educational power of television and new media.
ABOUT AMERICAN PUBLIC TELEVISION
Great Museums® is distributed to public television stations nationwide by American Public Television. American Public Television (APT) has been a leading distributor of high-quality, top-rated programming to America’s public television stations since 1961. For nearly 10 years, APT has distributed approximately half of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles. Among its 300 new program titles per year are prominent documentaries, news and current affairs programs, dramatic series, how-to programs, children’s series and classic movies, including Rick Steves’ Europe, Moyers & Company, Doc Martin, America’s Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, Nightly Business Report, Globe Trekker, BBC World News, Lidia’s Italy, Rosemary & Thyme, Live From the Artists Den, NHK Newsline, Simply Ming, Midsomer Murders, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and more. APT also licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service. In 2006, APT launched Create® TV – the TV channel featuring the best of public television’s lifestyle programming. APT is also a partner in WORLD™, public television’s premier news and documentary channel.