Art and culture find a permanent home on Governors Island with exhibits, workshops and more

LMCC's Arts Center officially opened on Governors Island on Thursday, Sep. 19, and will act as a new home for artists and host a diverse range of free arts, cultural and educational programming, and year-long artist residencies. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Make your own sunlight graffiti, craft a felt banner for Climate Week, and see into artists’ studios at the new Arts Center on Governors Island.

LMCC's Arts Center officially opened on Governors Island on Thursday, Sep. 19, and will act as a new home for artists and host a diverse range of free arts, cultural and educational programming, and year-long artist residencies.
LMCC’s Arts Center officially opened on Governors Island on Thursday, Sep. 19, and will act as a new home for artists and host a diverse range of free arts, cultural and educational programming, and year-long artist residencies. Photo Credit: Cynthia von Buhler / Titan Comics

Governors Island is positioning itself as a major arts hub with the opening of the new LMCC’s Arts Center.

Just a short walk away from Soissons Landing, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) 40,000-square-foot Arts Center officially opened on Thursday, kicking off a month-and-a-half of free public programming before the island closes for the season.

"The opening of LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island is a testament to our commitment to making New York City an affordable place for artists to work while realizing our vision to unlock the potential of Governors Island as a place for New Yorkers to learn, work and create," said Alicia Glen, the chair of the Trust for Governors Island. 

The center will be open year-round to artists in residence who will work in the arts center’s studios and will be open each year between May 1 and October 31 to the public, offering free access to performances, open studio visits, exhibitions, talks, a public program about ecology and sustainability and workshops, including two commissioned site-specific exhibitions by Yto Barrada and Michael Wang.

For now, it will be open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. for the remainder of the public season.

The artist Michael Wang with his installation "Extinct in New York." Four greenhouses contain a selection of plant, lichen and algae species historically documented in the natural environments of NYC, but which no longer grow wild in any of the five boroughs.
The artist Michael Wang with his installation "Extinct in New York." Four greenhouses contain a selection of plant, lichen and algae species historically documented in the natural environments of NYC, but which no longer grow wild in any of the five boroughs. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/Corey Sipkin

Starting this weekend, you’ll be able to see a work by Yoko Ono called "Wish Tree" and Yto Barrada’s "The Power of Two Suns," which looks at what humankind’s reactions would be to a disaster caused by solar radiation and the greenhouse effect and includes artist Bettina, who will contribute to the exhibit.

Artist Michael Wang has turned part of the gallery space into a laboratory-like installation, called "Extinct in New York," where he has been tending to plants, lichen and algae species that historically belong to the New York City environment but don’t exist here anymore. He hopes to "suggest a new kind of city for the organisms the city displaced," according to LMCC.

Other artists in residence include Colleen Billing, Baris Gokturk, Maya Kaminishi Jeffereis, Brendan Kiely, Aaron Suggs and Asiya Wadud, among many others.

The center’s "Take Care" series, which will be open every Saturday between 2 and 5 p.m., will also focus on sustainability with workshops, like one where visitors craft their own felt banners and capes for UN Climate Week and another with Olafur Eliasson that lets them create their own Sunlight Graffiti with solar energy.

The upcoming programming aims to make visitors "reflect on the world we inhabit," said Lili Chopra, LMCC’s executive director of Artistic Programs. "How can we better care for ourselves, those around us and the planet as a whole?" 

An installation by Yoko Ono called "Wish Tree" at LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island.
An installation by Yoko Ono called "Wish Tree" at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/Corey Sipkin

LMCC, which has supported artists since 1973 with funding, networking, training and studio residency programs, is offering all of this for free.

Governors Island has had an art presence — some of the old military residences down Colonels Row are used on the weekends as art galleries. And the old Catholic chapel, Our Lady Star of the Sea, currently features art by Shantell Martin.

"The opening of LMCC’s Arts Center is an exciting milestone in the transformation of Governors Island as a hub of creativity and a year-round part of New York City’s cultural life," said Clare Newman, the Trust for Governors Island;s president and CEO. "The trust was thrilled to partner with LMCC on this project in creating a vibrant new home for artists, free cultural programs and community engagement. As our first permanent cultural tenant on Governors Island, LMCC’s Arts Center is a model for how the historic district can be reimagined for the 21st century." 

For a full schedule of events, check out lmcc.net.

Shaye Weaver