Gowanus Visions: Arts & Activism Along The Canal


GOWANUS – Join Artichoke Dance Company next Saturday, June 15, for Gowanus Visions, a day of free performances, workshops, and activities to raise awareness of the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup and planned neighborhood rezoning.

Lynn Neuman, the Director of Artichoke Dance, has lived a few blocks from the Gowanus Canal for 15 years. The dance company formed in 1995 as a collective, and when Neuman became the sole director in 2008, she decided to address environmental issues. Combining art with environmental activism, Neuman creates work centered on water and plastic pollution. Brooklynites have likely seen Artichoke performances—with dancers dressed in “trashion” (fashion made from trash or plastic bags)—across the borough.

Artichoke Dance performs at Spoke the Hub’s Local Produce Festival, June 1, 2019 (Photo: Pamela Wong/Bklyner)
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“Gowanus is poised for a great deal of change and now, before the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure begins, is the time to make your voice heard and fight for the things that are important, and that we value in the neighborhood,” Neuman said in a release announcing Gowanus Visions. “Rezoning proposals do not take into account canal remediation and vice versa, so this has the potential to be a very expensive, and very ineffective, clean up with more and more people moving into a toxic zone.”

Along with being a member of the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, Neuman has attended NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) visioning meetings, EPA and Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) meetings, testified on the DCP’s Gowanus Canal Draft Scope of Work, and written comments on the agency’s Draft Scope of Work on behalf of 350Brooklyn, a group that fights for climate justice. “Part of this work is showing up. Another part, however, is taking action,” she told Bklyner of her activism.

Among her concerns about the impending Gowanus rezoning: inequitable “construction and infrastructure measures” which will leave residents in low-lying areas, including NYCHA housing, still vulnerable when another Superstorm strikes; elected officials not fully representing the interests of their constituents; the displacement of artists; and the potential homogenization of this integrated neighborhood.

Following up on a 2017 work she created exploring the condition of the Gowanus Canal, Gowanus Visions: A Festival of Art and Action will expand on that piece with community involvement, education, and activation. Activities will include: clean and green volunteering, interactive exhibits, a movement workshop, an eco-walking tour, canoeing on the canal, and visual art.

The event will also feature performances by Artichoke Dance and Gowanus Wildcats, as well as by groups from Gowanus NYCHA housing, FUREEous Youth, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), and Edward R. Murrow High School. A DJ dance party will follow from 4:30pm to 6:30pm at the new local music venue Public Records (233 Butler Street).

All are invited to attended workshops this weekend (June 8 & 9) to prepare to be part of a dance performance on the day of the Festival.

Dance Workshop
Saturday, June 8 (2pm to 3:30pm) at Gowanus Waterfront/Sponge Park, 166 2nd Street

Trashion Workshop
Sunday, June 9 (2pm to 5pm) at Artichoke Dance Company, 121 Sterling Place, #2B

Click here for more info on the workshops.

Neuman’s goal for the event is to engage the community by offering “multiple entry points for festival goers to experience the interconnectedness of place, people and work that happens in Gowanus and also to come away with a sense of alternative possibility for the future, one that is co-created,” she says.

Neuman adds that the festival will promote “participatory engagement” which she believes is what “we need for future sustainability and to thrive as a civilization.”

Learn more at artichokedance.org/events.

Gowanus Visions: A Festival Of Art And Action
Saturday, June 15, 10am to 6:30pm (Rain Date: Sunday, June 16, 1pm to 4pm)
Locations: Sponge Park (between 1st & 2nd Streets on west side of Gowanus Canal) and Public Records (233 Butler Street)

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