Challenge 2015: Post War Blues at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

 
 

2015 Challenge: Post War Blues

The Brooklyn Army Terminal was originally constructed for the war effort in 1919. It was most heavily used for WWII, and was eventually decommissioned and sold to the city of New York in the 1970's. It now houses a variety of businesses, from a chocolate factory to a balloon manufacturer to artists' studios.

The building has an amazing architecture: at the time it was built, it was the world's largest concrete building. The sad truth, however, is that most innovations come from the war effort. Post War Blues addresses what happens to the fruit of war innovations after a conflict is over and how we can work together to start healing a space. My goal is not only to have the current tenants of the Brooklyn Army Terminal work together for a peaceful end, but to also involve the surrounding neighborhoods of Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.

Post War Blues is a site-specific collaborative installation: flowers crocheted and knitted from recycled plastic yarn, burst out of the train car that sits in the Brooklyn Army Terminal atrium. The flowers rise and slowly fall in undulating waves, blanketing the tracks all the way to the end of the courtyard, a distance of about 300 feet.

Starting in 2015, I will a create an art club in the Brooklyn Army Terminal which will meet every month to collect plastic shopping bags, make yarn, learn to knit and crochet, and make the individual flowers for the final installation. I am working with Chashama, a New York based non-profit, and the building's management (NYC-EDC) to reach out to the tenants of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and encourage their workforce to participate in the project. I am also working with the local libraries of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park to conduct regular monthly art clubs in their meeting rooms.

I am modeling this installation on previous community-based projects: Knit for Trees on Governors Island in 2011, and Invasive Species for the Wisconsin Farm/Art Dtour in 2014. In Knit for Trees, I gave free knitting lessons to park visitors on Governors Island every weekend. The knitted panels were then continously added to the tree installation over the summer.

In Invasive Species, I issued a national “crochet challenge” to make crocheted kudzu leaves through crochet forums, yarn stores, social media sites and local businesses. Over 35 participants, some as far as Australia, made over 1500 leaves, out of the final 5000 that were used in the installation.

Those large scale installations, comprised of smaller, simple elements, are a tangible illustration of a community's effort. Participants see the results of their creative process, and pay more attention to the art, its role and its message.

My goal is for Post War Blues to function as a meaningful public art engagement: to serve as the glue that can bind a community together, and to show that despite our differences and our violent past, we can make something beautiful and meaningful together.

This installation is made with the participation of Chashama, and a 2015 BAC Community Arts Grants.

Chashama supports artists by transforming unutilized real estate into free and subsidized work and presentation space.

Chashama’s primary goal is to support artists living in New York City by giving them space to create and exhibit their work. chashama also aspires to bring the benefits of art and cultural programming to New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds. We believe in the power of a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship between artists and the communities in which they work.

More information at: www.chashama.org

Post War Blues is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn ArtsCouncil (BAC).

The Brooklyn Arts Council gives grants, presents free and affordable arts events, trains artists and arts professionals, teaches students, incubates new projects and promotes artists and cultural groups across our borough/

More information at: www.brooklynartscouncil.org