Free and Easy

A collaborative arts event proves that creativity can come without a cost.

This past weekend Governors Island was host to FIGMENT, an interactive cultural gathering with something for everyone. Over 10,000 people streamed onto the island between Friday and Sunday, to paint faces, play mini-golf, dance, make and enjoy art, and revel in the great outdoors.

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Now in its second year, the event’s attendance was up and Saturday set a new overall record for visitors on the island on a given day. FIGMENT’s growing success can be attributed to the fact that organizers purposefully set out to create an accessible event, one that eschews the high costs associated with so many summer activities. It is free, non-profit, and planned entirely by volunteers. Selling goods or services and advertising are not permitted (though donations for the overall event are welcome). “One of FIGMENT’s goals is helping build community,” their Web site explains. “With the high cost of living and commercialization of the art world, New York City can be a daunting place for artists. FIGMENT is created by a large network of people working together for the common good.”

I visited the event on Friday and after a short scenic ferry ride (where I spied one Statue of Liberty, two bridges, three waterfalls, and four helicopters) I set off to take some pictures of the sculpture, installations, and people. Some of the art had been created in the weeks leading up to the event as part of Emergence, a summer exhibition of experimental and participatory art, but many of the projects were being built on the spot, or were shipped in over the course of the weekend.

FIGMENT was very much a collaborative effort, and its success is a tribute not just to the volunteers, but also to the many entities that rallied to make it happen, including Action Arts League, The Pure Project, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, The National Park Service , Lower Manhattan Cultural Council , The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs , and The Black Rock Arts Foundation.

The event may be over, but Governors Island remains open to the public every weekend from now till October 12. Organizers also hope to host a follow up installation of images from both Emergence and FIGMENT in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted!


One of the Eliasson waterfalls is installed on Governors Island, so you can get an up close and personal look from the ferry loading zone.


“Sitting and Knitting”
Mary Campbell‘s performance art: her continual piece of knitting is now over 83’ long!


City of Dreams Mini Golf is a nine-hole course that will remain installed through October 5. Each of the holes was designed by a different artist or group and all are variations on the theme of “city of dreams.”


An interesting juxtaposition: Redevelopment of Governors Island in progress. Seems you can’t escape construction no matter where you go…


“Meg with Cookies” invited people to decorate their own cookies.


Building 14 is home to Emergence. Nearly 30 artist installations will remain installed through July 26th. Pictured here is Tara Parsons’ “Fork it Over” installation.

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