Celebrate Floyd Bennett Field With Art, Music, Food & More

 Celebrate Floyd Bennett Field With Art, Music, Food & More

By Katie McFadden

Earth Week, National Park Week and the 50th Anniversary of Gateway Recreation area are a cause for celebration at Floyd Bennett Field. All weekend long, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) and the National Park Service (NPS) will be celebrating all of those occasions, while putting a focus on Floyd Bennett Field’s rich history and the possibilities for its future, with the Floyd Bennett Field! Public Arts Festival from Friday, April 19 through Sunday, April 21.

Floyd Bennett Field has already established its place in history as New York City’s first municipal airport and a World War II naval air station, turned national park. Now that history is being built upon with its historic hangars being used as a canvas for digital projection mapping artwork, putting an artistic spotlight on these long-underutilized buildings on Friday and Saturday night, plus an inside look at the history that some of the hangars and other historic buildings that call Floyd Bennett Field home on Sunday.

It’s all part of an effort to shine light on these areas, draw new attention to them from people all across New York, and renew interest in them locally, as JBRPC and NPS work toward a bright future in which these buildings will be heavily utilized as spaces for nature based solutions and climate technology to improve Jamaica Bay and Rockaway park lands, food and beverage service that people can take advantage of when they explore the national park, and arts and cultural performance space for all New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy things like music, theater and art in the park. It’s all made possible by $26 million in federal funding for NPS to rehabilitate the exteriors of the historic hangars, while JBRPC focuses on inside programming. Planning for this work is already underway and it is expected to be complete and fully functioning by 2028, just ahead of Floyd Bennett Field’s 100th anniversary in 2031.

Wanting to plan something special for Gateway National Recreation Area’s 50th year and with a desire to bring more attention to Floyd Bennett Field in particular, JBRPC started working on this idea well over a year ago. Continuing their work helping with previous Rockaway! public art festivals, which shed light on the historic areas of Fort Tilden, JBRPC decided it was time to give Floyd Bennett Field the spotlight with its very own Floyd Bennett Field! Public Arts Festival.

“The main goal of this festival is to get a broad public audience of New Yorkers who live around here or elsewhere in the city to be aware that there’s this national park right here and to begin to get everyone excited about this vision for the future,” Terri Carta, executive director of JBRPC said. “We really want this event to engage a lot more people in this collective creation of the future of Floyd Bennett Field.”

The Floyd Bennett Field! Public Arts Festival kicks off on Friday night, April 19 with an opening reception and artists preview from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., where folks will get a first peak at the selection of digital projection mapping art pieces, in which various artwork, designed to complement the façade of Floyd Bennett Field’s hangars, will be projected on to the 11,000 square foot buildings for all to enjoy.

Carta says JBRPC first learned of digital projection mapping through the Queens and Brooklyn Library systems. “We thought, what an amazing idea for Floyd Bennett Field because it’s beautiful and engaging public art but it doesn’t require attaching things or erecting sculptures. Projecting art in the open park is a great way to showcase public arts while mitigating the challenges of displaying public art in a public park,” she said. JBRPC has been working with several artists to bring this artistic technology to Floyd Bennett Field this weekend— Derrick Adams, Peter Burr, Eto Otitigbe and Ryan Hartley Smith.

Derrick Adams’ five-minute animation, “The Sky Isn’t the Limit, It’s Only The View,” is a celebration of the varied topographies and waterways of New York City and the lower Hudson region. Peter Burr’s “PATTERN LANGUAGE,” and Eto Otitigbe’s piece, “OUTERSIDES #5,” will perfectly highlight the features of the hangar’s façade.  “See You at Riis” by Ryan Hartley Smith will pay homage to JBRPC’s park areas, ending at Riis Park, with a focus on the LGBTQ+ section on the beach. Working with Brooklyn College and the Fashion Institute of Technology, the festival will also showcase 13 pieces from eight students, Matt Bruinooge, Alessandro Echevarria, Donghwi Han, Christina Lee, Hanlin Liang, Dakota Ray, Ti Xu, and Phoenix Yang. Erick Sahler, an illustrator and master printmaker, will also unveil an original artwork honoring Floyd Bennett Field, with prints available for sale.

While the art will be the main focus of the event, with the preview on Friday, Saturday will incorporate much more. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with activities for all ages including lawn games like cornhole, Connect Four and Jenga, a makers market featuring nearly 30 vendors selling everything from art to soaps, jewelry to desserts and more. There will also be plenty of food trucks serving up things like pizza, tacos, Greek cuisine, poke bowls, donuts, crepes and more. At 5:45 p.m., live music will begin with local band, the Wild Yaks, followed by the Sesame Flyers steel pan ensemble and Batalá, an all-women, Black-led percussion ensemble. As it starts to get dark, the projection art will begin, starting at 8 p.m. It will continue right into a silent dance party and Quiet Events DJ set starting at 9 p.m., where people can put on headphones, tune into one of three different stations of music, and dance the rest of the night away with the continued projections in the backdrop, through 10:30 p.m.

Sunday will focus more on the history with special access to Floyd Bennett Field’s historic sites and aircraft from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For instance, visitors will get to see the historic aircraft on display in Hangar B, and can visit the Ryan Visitor Center, with special access to the control tower, where people can get a 360 view of the runways, the natural areas of the park, the city skyline, Jamaica Bay and more.

After working so long to make this festival possible, Carta is excited to see it come to fruition. “I’m truly blown away by the work of our staff, all of our partners, all of the artists, the community partners, the makers, and everyone that has made this come together. I’m excited for everyone to come and enjoy all of the different elements of this event. It’s going to be a fun time,” she said. “Celebrate this Earth Day weekend, National Park Week, Gateway’s 50th anniversary and kick off the outdoor season with us!”

All events are free to attend. Cash and cards are encouraged for the vendors and food trucks. Guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs to view the projections. Free parking is available. Floyd Bennett Field is located at 3159 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn. For more details, visit: www.jbrpc.org/arts and follow JBRPC on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

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