Every summer, part of Governors Island in New York Harbor becomes a cross between an art gallery and a playground, when the arts organization Figment installs free interactive exhibits created by local artists. Throughout the season, tens of thousands of New York families turn up to touch, climb, smell and explore works such as a sculptural mini golf courses, roller coaster-like installations and pools filled with rose petals. And for one happy weekend, the entire island becomes one giant art festival, as over 20,000 visitors come armed with paint, glue and brushes to create what they wish, dance, play, picnic and generally have a good time. “When we speak of "public art" at Figment, we mean art that is, actually, created by the public, not just displayed in the public realm,” says Executive Director David Koren, “By inviting the public to create and share art, we're encouraging widespread creativity and collaboration at an intensity and scale that we don't think has been seen before.”
Figment began six years ago, after Koren and a group of friends had the idea to reinvent the island – which had been an undeveloped no man’s land for many years- as a public art venue. “I realized that, since there can be no permanent housing on the island, art would be key to its development strategy”, he says. (Since re-opening in 2005, Governor’s Island has also been undergoing a major re-development to become an innovative recreational area.)
After a couple of years of planning, they pulled together permits, funding and a team of volunteers and artists to build an installation of gigantic rode metal and tire tread horses. They then invited the whole city to come and create and play for one day. “We planned our first event for July 8, 2007, and told the island to expect 500 people to attend,” recalls Koren. “We were all shocked when, after a lot of viral marketing and pr efforts, and some early press, 5000 people tried to get over to the island, and many were turned away.” Those who did make it over, got to ride the horses, learn African dance routines, get their faces painted, listen to music, dance to electrifying DJs, watch medieval swordplay, admire beautiful artwork and experience dozens of other projects and activities.
The success of Figment has enabled the organization to spread to other cities. This year, Boston, Detroit and Jackson will host their own Figment events in May and June. The NYC festival will take place June 10-12 and three long-term exhibitions will be on site from May through September. These will include an architectural pavilion called “City of Dreams”, an artist-designed, bug-inspired mini golf course and a sculpture garden that features 15 creative, interactive, and sustainable works. All works are selected through a competition, and the results will be announced at Figment’s fundraiser on April 6.
But the mission of Figment runs deeper than just offering urban dwellers a good time. “When people create art together, it serves as a vehicle for communication, mutual understanding, and relationship building. So art becomes a tool to build community and can lead to personal and social transformation,” says David Koren. To contribute to this transformation by volunteering or donating, click here.
from New York City, NY