Central Park in pop culture

events Apr 16, 2021

Situated in the heart of the entertainment capital of the East coast, Central Park had a massive impact of pop culture through the ages. It was featured in numerous movies as early as 1908, as well as many other forms of contemporary art, like music, TV shows, and even video games.

Visual arts

Central Park was something revolutionary to the United States back in the day. It was the first publicly funded park on this side of the Atlantic, and gave the (nearly million) people of Manhattan a place for recreation and fun, as well as a place to get in touch with nature.

Central Park was immortalized in three famous paintings. The first painting – a portrait of the park, is dated back from 1889, by famous American impressionist William Merritt Chase. Then, in 1965 Belgian artist Pierre Alechinsky gave the world an acrylic painting of the Ramble. Maurice Prendergast represented Central Park in several of his paintings from the early 20th Century.

Today, photography is as available as it can by. Even without professional equipment we all can produce amazing photos easily with just our phones. Central Park provides a high number of spots where you can make your amazing selfie and views that can get you hundreds of like on the social networks. But decades ago it was a hard job. One of the early photographs that operated is Elliott Erwitt, famous for his rather ironic style. Loyal to it, he made numerous photos of dogs back in the mid-70s.


Central Park has had its impact on literature, too. There’s a whole novel that takes action there – “Prince of Central Park”. It is the story of 12-year old J.J. Somerled, who runs to the park after his mother’s death, and after the abuse of his foster mother. Among his other deeds, he meets the mysterious Guardian. The novel has two movie adaptations – one for 1977, and one from 2000.

Have you ever wandered what happens with the ducks when it gets cold? Well, this question was coined by Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”. The young rogue often wanders the park asking himself this exact question.

Animated movies

We have to admit that we all love animation! Central Park and animated movies are well beloved by little kids, so it is no wonder that many animated movies take action in Central Park.

“We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story” sees it “re-inhabited” with dinosaurs, while in “A Troll in Central Park” Stanley gets banished there for his magical green thumb. “Balto” pays homage to the heroic dog of the same name that was part of the famous  1925 serum run to Nome.

But undoubtedly the most famous is “Madagascar”, where the Central Park Zoo was the initial home of Alex, Marty, the penguins and the rest of the gang.


I’m not quoting any statistics, but probably at least half of the TV shows ever produced take place in New York. That is why Central Park has a role in hundreds (if not thousands) of shows. “The Stand” has it abandoned in a post-apocalyptic New York, and Doctor Who fights off an angel invasion. “Sex and the City” and “Gossip Girl” feature a lot of scenes in Central Park, as well as Disney’s “Jessie”. Numerous “Law and Order” series have investigations taking place in the park.


Music and Central Park are going together since day 1.

The park has been an arena for many huge concerts. Back in 1986, New York Philharmonic performed in front of 800 000 people! In 1997, Garth Brooks performed a concert attended by 750 000, and in 1990 Daryl Hall and John Oates, Edie Brickell, and The B – 52s had the same number of attendants for that year’s Earth Day. Those are just a small portion of concerts that had more than half a million people in audience. Today, the SummerStage gathers thousands of people every day for some cool concerts.

Central Park gave inspiration to many artists. Charles Ives composed “Central Park in the Dark” in 1906. It is considered by many to be amongst his finest works. Singer-songwriter Nina Simone has a song “Central Park Blues” in her first album. John Coltrane sang about “Central Park West”, and Steve Hunter dedicated a song on the “Central Park Sunsets”.


I recently read an article that the gaming industry has surpassed both the movie and the music industry as revenue. Just imagine those numbers…

Videogames are a significant part of modern-day pop culture. Central Park made its first appearance in the 1988 game called Last Ninja 2 where it was the arena of the first level. Of course, Manhattan movie classics “Spider Man” and “Ghostbusters” have their respective videogames that feature Central Park. The park also appears in Tom Clancy’s “The Division”. Probably the most famous videogame role of Central Park is as the Middle Park in Rockstar’s classic Grand Theft Auto IV and in the sequel – Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

Central Park is a pop culture icon itself, with millions of fans all over the globe. Being first in so many things gave the park the required fame to be a cultural center, and thus influencing art on all levels, as well as being a muse of many. We are sure that we will see Central Park in many art forms in the future, too.

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