Volume 21, Number 24 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Oct. 24 -30, 2008

Downtown arts group to open Governors Isle studios

The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council will open a year-round artist residency program on Governors Island starting in May 2009 and continuing for at least five years.

In addition to working on the island, the artists will hold exhibitions, master classes and performances during the four-and-a-half months the island is open to the general public.

“Isn’t it exciting,” Maggie Boepple, president of the L.M.C.C., said in a telephone interview. “Governors Island is a jewel and I think it is really a fabulous place for artists…. You get to leave the hustle and bustle of Downtown, take this ferry and go to this bucolic spot.”

Leslie Koch, president of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, said the program both addresses the need artists have for spaces to work and the desire the public has to see more cultural programming in Lower Manhattan.

The island will host up to three performing groups and 20 visual artists at one time. The residencies will last three weeks during the summer and three months during the off-season, though the artists will not be allowed to stay overnight on the island.

GIPEC issued a request for proposals for artist residency programs in July, and the L.M.C.C. beat out four other organizations because of their track record in Lower Manhattan, Koch said.

The L.M.C.C. will have free rent in Building 110’s 14,000-square-foot main floor, very close to the ferry landing. The L.M.C.C. still needs to raise $250,000 to pay for utilities, insurance and staffing.

The program represents another step GIPEC is taking toward year-round activity on the island. The New York Harbor School, a public high school, will open on the island in the fall of 2010, and Boepple hopes the L.M.C.C. artists will work with the students.

Asked if the island might be open to the public year-round by the time the L.M.C.C.’s five-year program is up for renewal, Koch said she was not sure. While she wants to expand public access — the island was open earlier in the spring and later into the fall this year, and more park space will open next summer — she said it’s hard to draw people out if the weather is unwelcoming. On rainy days this summer, the island saw a sharp dip in the number of visitors.

Since the announcement earlier this week of the L.M.C.C.’s selection, Boepple’s phone has been ringing off the hook with artists who want in, and one person even showed up with a portfolio. The L.M.C.C. will issue an open call for proposals in several months and then have an expert panel review the applications.

The L.M.C.C. once had artist residencies on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center, a program they called “World Views.”

“This is like ‘World Views 2,’” Boepple said.

— Julie Shapiro





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