New Addition to East Harlem Public Art Works

East Harlem will soon welcome a female contributor to the annals of public art in the neighborhood renowned for its murals by male artists Manny Vega and James De La Vega. 

Lina Puerta is unveiling a mosaic fountain on June 25 called “Blossom/En Flor”  in the Community of Hope Garden on E. 104th Street and Lexington Avenue.

“It goes along with the rich cultural traditions of the neighborhood,” Eliana Godoy, founder of the East Harlem arts organization, Art for Change, said of the fountain designed in the shape of fallopian tubes. “But I think this is one of the boldest pieces of art work, because this is a fountain.”

While the sculpture has yet to be formally unveiled, it’s already the last stop on a Spanish Harlem arts tour by the Museum of the City of New York, said Godoy.

From the onset of her creation, Puerta aimed to honor the neighborhood’s women with the fountain. 

"We definitely wanted to do something that would acknowledge women’s strength,” said Puerta, who was given the green light to build the fountain by the landlord Hope Community, Inc.

Much of Puerta’s work examines how the female body affects women’s experiences. Touch-and-go funding and uncooperative weather stalled the project several times since its ground-breaking in December 2005. At the start, Puerta received $1,500 from Hope Community and a $2,300 grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, but the funding soon evaporated.

Still, the determined artist persevered and petitioned for public and private grants. 

“I had never built anything of this size,” she said, adding that her only other public piece was a temporary installation in a Queens city park. 

Puerta was inspired to create “Confessions From the Wound,” after interviewing several women of Latin American descent who had been victims of domestic violence. This installation spurred Puerta to build a permanent work to celebrate women.

“Blossom/En Flor” in Spanish Harlem adds a pop of color to the block. Its rainbow of glass tiles are reminiscent of the vibrant hues Puerta grew up around in rural Colombia.

“The neighborhood has lost so much, not only with gentrification, but with the economy. It’s just symbolic of the resilience of the neighborhood,” Godoy said of the fountain.

This summer, Puerta will also have a piece exhibited in the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, and she’ll be part of the June 15 - Aug. 30 exhibition “Weaving in and Out” with the group No Longer Empty, which hosts arts events in empty lots across the city.

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