• Statue of Liberty takes giant steps into modernity

    2014-06-11

    First opened in 1886, the Statue of Liberty remains one of the most enduring symbols of the American republic, as well as a popular United States travel destination. But even an icon of such colossal size must be flexible to adapt to the modern world.

    Threats to Liberty
    Despite greeting travelers to America's shores for more than a century, the Mother of Exiles is now being threatened by the sea she stands on. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed to the danger many landmarks worldwide face due to climate change. Hurricane Sandy ravaged Liberty Island, where the statue stands, leaving it closed for months. Statue Cruises, which runs ferries to the island, reportedly lost 50 percent of its riders and 80 percent of revenue in the interim. The storm also destroyed the small brick house where the island's superintendent lived. This structure has not been rebuilt for safety reasons.

    To overcome the danger posed by changing weather conditions, Liberty Island and its now-sole inhabitant have to get with the times. NextCity.org reported that the National Park Service responded quickly to help preserve Lady Liberty and her home, first by raising electrical equipment above height guidelines established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    The NPS is also taking steps to reduce the park's emissions and their contribution to rising sea levels. Mary Foley, regional chief scientist for the NPS, told the news source that the island is replacing all of its lights with LEDs, instituting recycling and composting programs and buying the produce its concession stands sell locally. Even State Cruises is doing its part.

    "The ferry provider," Foley told NextCity.org, "has developed a hybrid ferry that uses solar, wind and diesel power to get people here."

    Modern reconfiguration
    Not every brush with modernity leaves the Statue of Liberty so ruffled, though. As old as she is, Lady Liberty still has the power to inspire her visitors. Conceptual artist Dahn Vo has honored the statue by pulling it to pieces. According to The Wall Street Journal, Vo's new work, "We the People," grew out of a realization he had about the landmark.

    "When I found that the Statue of Liberty was only the thickness of two pennies, I thought that was very intriguing," Vo told the news source.

    Empowered by the revelation, Vo recreated the statue, life-sized but deconstructed. His work comprises 250 pieces, each a portion of the larger statue such as her foot or hair. Vo's sculptures are made of the same material and by the same methods as the real statue. The Public Art Fund is hosting 53 of the pieces until the end of the year. They will be scattered throughout City Hall Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park, watched over by the real Lady Liberty in the harbor.

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