Strawberry Fields (memorial)
Strawberry Fields is a 2.5-acre (1.0 ha) landscaped section in New York City's Central Park that is dedicated to the memory of former Beatle John Lennon. It is named after the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever" written by Lennon.
The Central Park memorial was designed by Bruce Kelly, the chief landscape architect for the Central Park Conservancy. Strawberry Fields was dedicated on what would have been Lennon's 45th birthday, October 9, 1985, by New York Mayor Ed Koch and Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who had underwritten the project. The entrance to the memorial is located on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, directly across from the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon had lived for the later part of his life, and where he was murdered in 1980. The memorial is a triangular piece of land falling away on the two sides of the park, and its focal point is a circular pathway mosaic of inlaid stones, with a single word, the title of Lennon's famous song: "Imagine". This was a gift from the city of Naples, Italy. Along the borders of the area surrounding the mosaic are benches which are endowed in memory of other individuals and maintained by the Central Park Conservancy. Along a path toward the southeast, a plaque on a low glaciated outcropping of schist lists the nations which contributed to building the memorial. Yoko Ono, who still lives in The Dakota, contributed over a million dollars for the landscaping and the upkeep endowment.
The mosaic, in the style of Portuguese pavement, is at the heart of a series of open and secret glades of lawn and glacier-carved rock outcroppings, bounded by shrubs and mature trees and woodland slopes, all designated a "quiet zone". A woodland walk winds through edge plantings between the glade-like upper lawn and the steep wooded slopes; it contains native rhododendrons and hollies, Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), viburnums, and Jetbead. Wild shrub roses and a mature pink Magnolia × soulangeana flank the main walk. At the farthest northern tip of the upper series of lawns enclosed by woodland are three Dawn Redwood trees, which lose their needles but regain them every spring, an emblem of eternal renewal. The trees can be expected to reach a height of 36 metres (118 ft) within 100 years, and eventually they will be visible from great distances in the park.
The "Imagine" mosaic began to sink noticeably in 2007.
The memorial is often covered with flowers, candles in glasses, and other belongings left behind by Lennon's fans. On Lennon's birthday (October 9) and on the anniversary of his death (December 8), people gather to sing songs and pay tribute, staying late into what is often a cold night. Interestingly, the songs sung, selected by an oligarchy, are mostly George Harrison solo tracks. In recent years, a group of bullies has ruined the experience for many, hurling insults and ganging up on the best male singers, and crowds have noticeably thinned. Gatherings also take place on the anniversaries of birthdays of the other members of The Beatles. Impromptu memorial gatherings for other musicians, including Jerry Garcia and George Harrison, have occurred at the memorial. In the days following the September 11 attacks, candlelight vigils were held at the Imagine Circle to remember those killed. On weekends, musicians often play for the enjoyment of thousands of fans from around the world who visit the site.
"Mayor of Strawberry Fields"
One of its best-known visitors was Gary dos Santos, a fan of the Beatles who decorated the memorial in circles of different flowers and objects, often in the shape of a peace symbol. Born Ayrton "Gary" Ferreria dos Santos Jr., he was a performance artist who for 19 years installed flower designs around and within the "Imagine" mosaic here. His work has been documented in The New York Times. Dos Santos' income came from the tips he received from tourists as a result of his work, and the three-minute monologue he delivered to tourists describing his work and the life of John Lennon and his family. Santos was the subject of a documentary film, The Mayor of Strawberry Fields, directed by Torre Catalano and distributed by Nehst Studios.
For almost 20 years, he could be found on most days at the memorial with his girlfriend of 15 years, Lisa Page, and their dog, Mary Jane, and was well known by many long-time local residents. In September 2013 Gary was diagnosed with leukemia. After spending about nine weeks in the hospital, he died in November 2013.
- "Strawberry Fields". Central Park. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Astor, Maggie (13 September 2007). "'Imagine' Mosaic Sinking in Park". Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
- Chiaramonte, Perry (2008-04-14). "Strawberry Jam". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- Kilgannon, Corey (December 8, 2009). "Devotee of Lennon Haunts Strawberry Fields". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- Miers, Jeff (August 23, 2009). "Buffalo native’s documentary explores art, film and homelessness in ‘The Mayor of Strawberry Fields’". Buffalo News.
- "Mayor of Strawberry Fields in Central Park dies at 49". PIX 11. 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
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