Governors Island has just reopened for the summer season. And there is new art to view. So get out your walking shoes, bikes and picnic baskets to enjoy the breathtaking vistas and lush grounds of New York City’s most glorious park. The magic always begins with the short, free ferry ride that deposits you near the Water Taxi Beach (on the right), with its colorful fake palm trees, (www.watertaxibeach.com), and at the foot of Building 110, Governors Island’s newest cultural destination. A former munitions warehouse, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) has transformed it into an Arts Center complex. (See more photos in Snapping Around).
LMCC provides studio space and five-month residencies to 20 visual artists, plus a Gallery Space open to the public June 5 through July 11, and July 23 through August 29. During the weekend of July 23-25, visitors will also be able to visit the studios and see the work of the inaugural group of artists. I urge everyone to take advantage of this opportunity because the art, much of it inspired by the Island, is remarkably good. Also, the stunning studio views of downtown New York are, in themselves, worth a visit. (LMCC Acting Director Diego Segalini, above).
The Governors Island Alliance, formed in 1995 to support and advocate for public programs and appropriate use of the Island, whose members are a mix of cultural organizations and committed individuals, kicked off the new season with a “Summer Gala,” to raise funds and honor Congressman Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler (below) and Terry MacRae of Hornblower Cruises, both of whom have worked tirelessly to transform the Island into an accessible National Park and national treasure.
The event, which included a Tour of LMCC”s Artist Studios, a Silent Auction and outdoor dancing, took place on a picture perfect summer evening. Guests, representing environmental, architectural, preservation, museum and conservancy groups of every stripe, strolled from the ferry to one of the Island’s most beautifully restored landmark buildings, The Commanding Officer’s Quarters, with its gorgeous terrace views of Manhattan’s bridges and downtown Brooklyn.
For me, the surprise highlight of the evening was the tour of Artist Studios, beginning with Jong Il Ma’s room-sized installation, Yes, Honey (below), you can bounce back and forth, and you are a bit closer to it, on view in the public gallery space. Thin wooden strips of various lengths and types, both colored and uncolored, are flexed, twisted, bundled and arched in a joyous rhythm of curved lines which, according to the artist, “reference bridges, airport structures, and factory buildings as seen from multiple perspectives.”
There are other impressive paintings and installations by Hidemi Takagi, Maeung Gyun You, Wojchiech Gilewicz and Chin Chih Yang, among others. (Photos, below, top to bottom, show Hidemi Takagi’s Blender, Chin Chih Yang’s Kill Me or Change, and The Friendly Falcons and Their Friend the Snake, by Jeffrey Kurosaki and Tara Pelletier).
Governors Island has struck the imagination of arts groups near and far, and a host of summer events are in the works. This weekend, June 11-13, visitors to the Island can participate in the FIGMENT Art Festival (www.figmentproject.org), an interactive art happening that began in July 2007 as a free, one-day participatory arts event with over 2,600 participants. Since then, FIGMENT has grown significantly each year.
There is also a working farm on the Island north of Picnic Point. A project of Added Value, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable urban agriculture and youth empowerment, there will be a farm stand to purchase Island-drown veggies beginning in mid-summer
For more information about events, go to the Governors Island Alliance website (www.governorsislandalliance.org).
If you simply want to bike, walk or picnic, just remember that the Island is only open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On a bright summer day, I can’t think of a better place I’d want to be.