Press Release: A New Public Art Installation on the Upper East Side

Press Release:

A New Public Art Installation on the Upper East Side has local grammar school students asking: “How can we save Mother Earth?”

The ‘Talking Sculpture’ of Pope Francis at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue challenges its viewers to participate in a new dialogue about today’s environmental challenges and how we should care for Mother Earth, “our common home.”

New York City- May 7, 2018 – A new sculpture of Pope Francis has been temporarily installed in the public entrance, the “Narthex” in Church parlance, of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue and 84th Street on the Upper East Side. Unlike other sculptures though, this one wants to know what you think about how we can save the planet from the ravages of climate change and centuries of shameless exploitation of nature for profit. In fact, the sculpture comes with paper, pens and deposit slot for collecting handwritten responses as well as the full buffet of social media options to post to with the hashtag #HopeOfPope.

To jump-start the project the artists have offered a contest to the St. Ignatius Loyola School, a Jesuit grammar school associated with the Church. The school will have students K-8 come see the sculpture and write responses, the best of which will win a miniature version of the sculpture. 

The brainchild of artist’s Joan Benefiel + Jeremy Leichman of Figuration Studio, this is the first in a series of “socially charged public art installations” that seek viewer participation in the tradition of Rome’s famous “Talking Statues.”  In the 16th century and continuing to this day, certain statues in public squares around the city became bulletin boards for a range of subjects, including political dissent, poetry, and even criticism of the statues themselves. “We feel that this is the highest function of public art, that it can provide a platform for not only the expression of the artist’s ideas, but also the viewer’s.  The Talking Sculpture Project will soon include new sculptures that will expand this platform to other important social and political issues, ” says Figuration Studio Founder Joan Benefiel.

The 400lb, bonded marble statue depicts the Pontiff smiling and waving, carrying his landmark encyclical ‘Laudato Si’; On Care for Our Common Home, in which he urges all of humanity to forge a new dialogue and consensus about how to save our planet, a message that transcends religion. The project can be visited free of charge 24 hours a day through the summer at 980 Park Avenue, no appointment necessary. For more information about the sculpture and the project please visit

Press inquiry: Joan Benefiel