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Entries in Festival of Ideas for the New City (1)


Art at the Festival of Ideas for the New City

The Festival of Ideas for the New City made its debut on May 4-8 in Manhattan.  The event brought together several arts institutions, community groups, as well as downtown organizations to showcase new ideas that may benefit New York City’s future.  There were a series of workshops, a conference, a street festival, and more than 100 independent projects associated with the new collaborative initiative.  Most events occured near the New Museum, one of the founders of the festival.

On May 8, I did have a chance to briefly visit the outdoor Street Fest that took place throughout various points along the Bowery, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and the surrounding Lower East Side.  More than 75 local grassroots organizations, small business and nonprofits were represented.  I thought that it was great to see so many nonprofits that are normally engaged in some pretty invaluable work, have a prominent spotlight. 

It was one of the most educational, and oddly entertaining street festivals that I’ve ever attended.   The minute that I stepped out of the Bowery subway station, I immediately noticed this:

 Agata Olek created this crotchet bicycle using acrylic yarn. 

Trust Art's Bushwick Art Park

Peter Stuyvesant chartered the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in 1661, naming it “Boswijck” meaning “Little town in the woods” or “heavy woods” in 17th century Dutch.  Ironically, the neighborhood has the least amount of open space, 0.6 acres per 1,000 people.  The New York City Department of City Planning recommends a minimum of 2.5 acres per 1,000 people.

Recently, several neighborhood artists and organizations, led by Trust Art, Factory Fresh, and Skewville put forth a proposal to de-map Vandervoot Place, an underused street in Bushwick, and transform it into a permanent sculpture garden.  At the festival’s street fest, Agata Olek, a Brooklyn based artist with a current show in the Bowery, contributed crocheted street performers (who were "yarn bombed"), as part of the prototype of the Bushwick Art Park. The depiction of the Brooklyn apartment dwellers drew quite a crowd, and brought pedestrian traffic to a standstill.

A recent article in the New York Times recently referred to "yarn bombing" as a feminine form of street art (as opposed to graffiti, which is male-dominated).

Yarn bombing takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape. Hydrants, lampposts, mailboxes, bicycles, cars — even objects as big as buses and bridges — have all been bombed in recent years, ever so softly and usually at night. -NYT, 5/19/11

Art After Hours: Murals on the Bowery


During the festival, 15 stores along the Bowery, had their security gates painted by artists. This temporary installation known as "After Hours, Murals on the Bowery" featured site-specific paintings.   At the invitation of the New Museum, the Art Production Fund selected a cross-generational, international group of artists, and approached proprietors of retail spaces along the Bowery who will host the murals for two months. In some cases, the murals may remain indefinitely.  Above is work by Deborah Kass and pulp, ink at 214 Bowery. 

 The Laundromat Project

One of my favorite community based nonprofit arts organizations, the Laundromat Project was also at the festival. They invited the public to silkscreen a tote bag while listening to music from 2010 Public Artist in Residence Bayeté Ross Smith’s tower of boom boxes.  Below is a video that describes the great work that they do throughout NYC.


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