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Friendly Balloons Invade the High Line

Friends With You's inflatable sculptures (all photos by author)

At the end of the newly opened Section 2 of the High Line is a psychedelic amusement park filled with inflatable creatures, googly-eyed, cartoony and basically irresistible. This playground, designed by artist collective Friends With You, was host to Aol’s party celebrating the High Line opening last Wednesday.

Heading down the stairs at the 30th Street exit off the High Line, I stepped into a cavernous space under the elevated railway, lit by hanging fluorescent lights. Off in the distance, Friends With You’s friendly sculptures grinned, but that would be for later. First, there was the beer garden to explore.

The High Line now has its own beer brew called Elevated Wheat (made from NYC-only ingredients), which was generously doled out on draft at an elegant wood bar under the railroad. The beer kind of tasted like how you’d imagine the High Line to taste — a light, breezy blend of flowers, sunlight and plant matter. It’s better than it sounds, I promise. You have to chance to find out for yourself what High Line beer is like all this summer long, as the beer garden space turns into an outdoor food court complete with Brooklyn food trucks and the architecture-inspired ice cream sandwich vendor, Coolhaus.

Playing in Friends With You's balloon park

The minority art world audience that I caught seemed a little lost in a sea of media and Meatpacking types. ARTnews editor Robin Cembalest wasn’t there for the beer, but she appreciated the kid-friendly fun that Friends With You brought to the proceedings. Maybe a good fit for her cre8tive YouTH*ink youth group?

After the beer, I ventured into the mushroom kingdom. Everything in there is extremely striped and extremely pastel-colored, in accordance with Friends With You’s kawaii house style. The balloon sculptures are surprisingly soft, which is a good thing, considering that the spheres and cylinders floating in the air can be viciously bounced at your fellow guests. It doesn’t hurt, but you might be surprised to find a blue ball flying at your face. A tall creature in the middle of the space spews smoke, but the real showstopper is the mushroom balloon.

Bouncing in the inflatable sculptures

Removing your shoes (and putting down your drink) will grant you access to a bouncy-cage space inside the inflatable mushroom, suitable for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend the experience. The gentleman in the white jacket, seen above, certainly did.

After the party winded down I headed ascended back to the High Line to walk down to 14th Street. The park was still humming after its soft opening earlier that day, but the evening managed to highlight a more subtle element of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design: the lighting. Soft floodlights lit the path while spotlights picked out bushes and trees. Visitors were still lounging on the lawn even as the sun sunk below the horizon.

The lot under the High Line will be turned into a beer garden and food court
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