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Artist-led teams create scenarios for revitalization of Long Island City Neighborhood
R/Call: IF ONLY THE CITY COULD SPEAK installation by artist Mary Miss and project team as part of Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City; Photo by Bill Taylor, Courtesy of The Noguchi Museum.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Noguchi Museum, founded by Isamu Noguchi in 1985, and Socrates Sculpture Park, established by Mark di Suvero in 1986, have joined together to create Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City. This major project engages the creative intellect of four artist-led teams in conceiving new approaches to growth in the Queens neighborhood in which the two institutions are located and which they helped to shape.

Situated at the border of Long Island City and Astoria, the neighborhood is a vital mix of large open spaces, waterfront, industrial buildings, residences, artist studios, and arts institutions. However, in recent years, this character has been seriously threatened by numerous large-scale buildings that appear to have been designed without regard for infrastructure capacity, traffic, parking, or the resulting loss of affordable housing.

For Civic Action, the Museum and the Sculpture Park invited artists Natalie Jeremijenko, Mary Miss, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and George Trakas—all of whom are known for their work in the public sphere—to assemble teams that would create visionary scenarios that would enable the neighborhood to continue to serve as a place for the arts, as well as for industry and housing. The goal of the project is to spark an ongoing dialogue among the creative sector, community stakeholders, and public agencies about how best to manage development. In so doing, Civic Action aims to demonstrate the potential for the neighborhood simultaneously to grow and maintain its singular identity. The scenarios will be presented in an exhibition at The Noguchi Museum from October 13, 2011, through April 22, 2012.

Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon states, “Civic Action honors the legacy of Isamu Noguchi and Mark di Suvero, whose pioneering commitment to Long Island City launched its regional, national, and international profile. It is hoped that in exploring creative, integrated approaches to planning—ones that embrace the needs of the neighborhood’s diverse stakeholders—Civic Action will create a model that can be used by communities across New York City and beyond.”

Alyson Baker, former executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park, adds, “The evolving urban landscape of New York City holds a detailed record of specific actions and projects by artists and architects that provided turning points for the adaptive re-use of neighborhoods. Civic Action aims to provide the next chapter in that history.”

The projects created by the four artist-led teams will be presented in an exhibition opening at The Noguchi Museum on October 13, 2011, comprising drawings, models, photographs, texts, and a variety of other materials. The exhibition will remain on view through April 22, 2012, and will be accompanied by public programming intended to engage both the communities that bring about development and those that are effected by it. In spring 2012, large-scale prototypes for aspects of the projects will be presented at Socrates Sculpture Park, on the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary.

A publication documenting the process and the resulting artworks and installations will be produced at the conclusion of the Noguchi Museum exhibition.

Participants, Process
Each Civic Action artist-led team includes an architect, urban planner, or landscape architect; a writer who is both participating in and documenting the working process; and additional individuals invited by the artist. The management team includes Beckelman + Capalino, strategic advisors to cultural institutions; Claire Weisz, of the New York City-based WXY Architecture + Urban Design, serving as urban strategist; and publication editor Julie V. Iovine, architecture and design writer and executive editor, The Architect’s Newspaper. Amy Hau, administrative director of The Noguchi Museum, is project coordinator. The project advisory committee includes prominent members of the architecture, design, and real-estate communities, including landscape architect Diana Balmori, architect David Childs, attorney Donald Elliott, architect Hugh Hardy, real-estate executive Richard Maltz, and architect Richard Meier. Curator of the exhibitions at both the Museum and the Sculpture Park is independent curator Amy Smith-Stewart.

The Civic Action teams began their work by immersing themselves in the physical, social, and cultural history and present of the Long Island City community they are addressing, including the rich legacy of civic projects created by Noguchi and di Suvero. The Museum and the Sculpture Park aided this process by providing an extensive set of physical and digital models, zoning studies, aerial photography, and maps, as well as documentation related to Noguchi’s projects for public spaces and di Suvero’s development of Socrates Sculpture Park. Graduate students from the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School for Design additionally contributed a model of the area.

In UP_2_U, Natalie Jeremijenko’s Environmental Health Clinic presents ways to improve environmental health, by using AgBags, an urban farming system for any railing, double-hung window, or parapet; greening “no parking zones”; building bridges for butterflies and superhighways for salamanders; and implementing flylines for transporting goods and people. These systems for energy, food, manufacturing, distribution, and mobility in Long Island City are creatively, but practically adapted to improve environmental and human health and explore a biodiverse future.

Mary Miss and her team have proposed Ravenswood/CaLL: If Only The City Could Speak, an initiative that would establish the area as a district of innovation and experimentation, supporting collaborative projects among artists, scientists, and other experts that address issues of social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

For GreenWay and Community Kitchen, Rirkrit Tiravanija and his team propose repaving the section of Broadway from the N/Q subway station to Socrates Sculpture Park with drivable grass. Areas of the GreenWay could be closed to traffic for special events, markets, screenings, and other happenings and a community kitchen (a design based on an Akari lamp) would be set up in Socrates Sculpture Park.

For River Shoreline Walk, George Trakas and his team focus on the water’s edge, an integral element of the neighborhood, envisioning a publicly accessible promenade that makes visible the bulkheads and other remnants of past industry. Inspired by historical research into the neighborhood’s development, the team proposes working with the community to reestablish the Ravenswood waterfront.

Noguchi Museum | Isamu Noguchi | Socrates Sculpture Park | Mark di Suvero |

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