NCMA Recommends: City in the Grass

Leonardo Drew, City in the Grass, 2019, aluminum, sand, wood, cotton, and mastic, H. 102 x W. 32 ft., Collection of the artist, courtesy Talley Dunn Gallery, Galerie Lelong & Co., and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco

In the Museum Park, you will find Leonardo Drew’s monumental outdoor sculpture City in the Grass, installed in the Ellipse. Drew’s first major outdoor sculpture, it was commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy in New York, where it was on view in 2019, before it came to the NCMA this year.

The work is composed of aluminum panels covered in a mosaic of colored sand and adhesive, inspired by a Persian rug. A miniature woodblock cityscape sits atop this “flying carpet,” punctuated by three towers that evoke a variety of architectural and cultural references, including the Empire State Building and The Wizard of Oz. Drew wants visitors to feel like Gulliver discovering Lilliput as they wander through his bird’s-eye view of a city. “In the end,” he says, “it can be your flying carpet transporting you to wherever you need to be.”

Drew sees public art as a shared experience, and his intent is for City in the Grass to weather and change in response to visitor interaction and the elements. “My philosophy,” he has stated, “has always been that the viewer should be complicit in realizing and finishing the work.” The work has intentional “holes” where grass pokes through, evoking a carpet that has been used and lived on. His hope is that the more the work is “used,” the more worn it will become, like a carpet in one’s home.

Artist Interview

Watch this CBS This Morning interview with artist Leonardo Drew to learn more about City in the Grass, his process, and why he gave up drawing to make sculptures.

Virtual Slow Art Appreciation

Join us in observing and reflecting on Leonardo Drew’s City in the Grass. This free virtual program on Wednesday, July 15, from 7 to 8 pm, guides you through centering techniques and a breathing practice followed by an intentional observation of the piece. For ages 16 and up.

Art in Motion! Enter Our Virtual Sculpture Race

We’ve reimagined our Art in Motion Sculpture Race to take place in cyberspace, and in your homes! Celebrate art and human innovation by building a dynamic sculpture. The only requirement is that your creation be inspired by a work of art from the Museum’s collection. Prizes will be awarded in multiple categories! Digital submissions accepted July 3—21.

Even if you don’t enter the race, join us for the virtual Exhibition and Awards Ceremony on Friday, July 31, from 7 to 8 pm to watch the competition. –Bryanne Senor, Manager of Park Programs

Behind the Scenes: Walk in the Park

Meet Ben Bridgers, manager of Park collection and exhibitions. Since the pandemic has closed our galleries, more visitors have been enjoying the Museum Park, where Ben has been working to inspect the sculptures, repair damage, and care for City in the Grass as it weathers as the artist intended.

A Flight of Fancy from Guatemala

Leonardo Drew and others have referred to City in the Grass as a flying carpet. The folds and wrinkles in the sculpture make it look like a rug in the grass. In Guatemala people create similar works of art called alfombras de aserr­n or sawdust carpets, a tradition of Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). In 2014 a Guinness World Record was achieved for the longest: 6,601 feet.

While Drew uses colored sand, these carpets use dyed sawdust to create colorful patterns. Many times these carpets have a religious theme, but in modern times they can portray many different subjects.  Watch this video created by Hola Cultura about the alfombras de aserr­n created at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2017.–Felicia K. Ingram, Manager of Interpretation, Accessibility, and Diversity

Picnic in Support of Black-Owned Restaurants 

As it overlooks our sprawling Park with grassy hills and shaded nooks, City in the Grass inspires us to picnic! You, too? Grab a blanket and enjoy a meal while supporting superb Black-owned restaurants in our community. In this list of local businesses, check out the favorite dish, and then order takeaway directly from a recommended restaurant. Like Leonardo Drew’s “magic carpet,” they can transport you to Jamaica, Ethiopia, the North Carolina coast, or anywhere you’d like to go! Pair your meal with our picnic playlist for traveling the globe.

Show us your picnic scene by tagging @ncartmuseum, and don’t forget to tag the restaurant.–Bryanne Senor, Manager of Park Programs  

Starring the City

 – City in the Grass makes us ponder our relationship with our city and the role it plays in shaping us. This week’s recommended films feature cities as prominent characters and portray protagonists who are shaped by their environment and community.–Maria Lopez, Manager of Film and Lecture Programs

– Crooklyn (1994). Director: Spike Lee. Nine-year-old Troy has to deal with her five rambunctious brothers, eccentric neighbors, and the trials of growing up in the ’70s in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Rent on YouTube or Amazon.

– Moonlight (2016). Director: Barry Jenkins. A young man growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami is shaped deeply by his environment as he struggles with his identity, a drug-addicted mother, and his sexuality. Watch on Netflix.

– G¼eros (2014). Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios. Two brothers embark on a road trip through Mexico City to search for a long-forgotten musician but end up being changed by the harsh truths they discover. Rent on YouTube or Amazon.

– City of God (2002). Directors: Fernando Meirelles, K¡tia Lund. Residents of Cidade de Deus (City of God), a favela of R­o de Janeiro, strive to overcome the circumstances of their harsh environment. Rent on Amazon.

Family Activities

Imagine you’re able to fly through the sky and look down at the world below you, perhaps from an airplane window, or even atop a magic carpet! How would it look? Create a collage that shows the view you’d see. Find details about this family activity and more at NCMALearn.–Courtney Klemens, Manager of Family Programs

Learning about Contemporary Artists

Leonardo Drew is one of dozens of artists featured in films by Art21, a nonprofit devoted to making contemporary art accessible to a wide audience. Drew appears in this episode exploring two questions: How do artists push beyond what they already know and readily see? and Can acts of engagement and exploration be works of art in themselves? Go to NCMALearn for a list of other NCMA artists featured in Art21 films.–Michelle Harrell, Director of Education, and Jill Taylor, Manager of School and Teacher Programs

Audio Description

The recording below is an audio description of City in the Grass. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.

NC Museum of Art · Audio Description: Leonardo Drew, “City in the Grass”

Music for Your Carpet Ride

Leonardo Drew’s beautiful and abstract cityscape is designed as a colorful sand mosaic meant to mimic a Persian carpet, transporting its audience, as if by magic, around the globe. Check out this international playlist as musical accompaniment for the ride!–Janette Hoffman, Acting Artistic Director and General Manager of the Outdoor Amphitheater


Jul 07, 2020


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
For More Information:
(919) 715-5923
Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm
Scroll to Top