Ark for the Arts

Isabelle Garbani & Jeannine Bardo

In Biblical mythology, the ark is used to safeguard the most precious possessions against the incoming floods and potential enemies. The ark can also be seen as a metaphor, as a place of refuge and safety. Currently, potential flooding because of climate change has become a real and urgent issue that must be addressed, as it threatens our coastlines and low-lying neighborhoods such as Red Hook. The past year has seen additional assaults on what we hold dear in Brooklyn: our culture and diversity are being attacked with the rise of nationalism, racism, and a war on the arts.

We are working as a team of two environmental, socially-engaged artists and educators: Jeannine Bardo and Isabelle Garbani. Our team members will work as facilitators to organize and promote community events around the Ark, help design and engineer the Ark, conduct free art workshops in Red Hook, and help schools integrate the project into their curriculum.

Our proposal, called the Ark for the Arts, is an amphibious, human-powered mobile structure, a movable Ark for the neighborhood of Red Hook. The Ark is to be freely used by the community for any arts, cultural and community events such as dance recitals, concerts, theater, art classes, nutrition, wellness workshops, emergency preparedness classes, voter registration drives etc. The community chooses and designs their own programming according to their needs and the artists act as facilitators. Community members are the artists, Isabelle and Jeannine are the brushes, and the neighborhood is the canvas.

The Ark becomes a symbol of resilience and transformation against environmental and political threats: it promotes, preserves and empowers the neighborhood. The Ark can be moved to specific locations and become a stage, a rallying point or a classroom. The library will act as “The Guardian of the Ark”, and serve as a place where the community can reserve the Ark for their events, get the key to the Ark, and ask for any additional support from the artists.

We have already spoken with Bob Biondi at Supersmith, Marsha Trattner at She Weld, Cheryl Braxton at The Village of Red Hook, and Catherine McBride at Red Hook Initiative. We have also reached out to the Red Hook library, the South Brooklyn Community High School, Red Hook Community Farm, and we plan to reach out to Red Hook Art Project as well.

The Ark is a flexible, scale-able structure: we can start with a visually compelling project very early in the fall, and keep building up the Ark and its components through the Winter and Spring of 2018. We are currently aiming for the following time-line (the mock-up image shows the progression of the Ark):

Phase 1: Fall 2017

  • Build the boat with Supersmith: the boat is built as a community class of 10 to 12 high school students, and owned by the community when finished. The boat can then be used for recreation, research and science projects, or in an emergency in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Purchase a boat trailer that will be pulled by a bicycle.
  • Organize street clean-ups with the artists and the community. The collected detritus and waste materials will be transformed into decorations for the Ark as a float in the 2017 Ark for the Arts parade on the anniversary of Sandy.
  • 2017 parade will be the official launch of the Ark for the Arts. The event will be used to promote the Ark for the Arts to the community and disseminate information about how to use the Ark for community and art events.

Phase 2: Winter 2017

Start the expansion and construction of the additional Ark elements, and use the following components as projects that can be used within school curriculum or with community-based organizations like the Red Hook Initiative:

  1. Boat Shelter: a platform is built around the boat that can be used as a small stage. The platform has a ramp which is stored underneath, and which makes the stage handicap-accessible. The stage has handrails, which can be folded down, and used to hang decorations, banners, posters, etc.
  2. Boat House: on the platform, a small flexible house with a simple roof is built. The walls and roof can be taken apart to become display walls, a projection screen, a table, a stage backdrop, etc. Platform seating can be stored inside and used for an audience, or as pedestals for art shows for example.
  3. The bike that originally pulled the boat and trailer becomes amphibious, and will power the Ark on land and in the water.
  4. An additional bicycle is transformed into a power source: any electrical needs associated with community events will use the alternative green energy generated by the bike.

Phase 3: Spring - Summer 2018

The community can begin using the Ark for events. The key to the Ark and support for using the Ark will be organized in partnership with the local library. We want all the residents of Red Hook to feel empowered to use the Ark for any exhibits, shows and events that they can imagine. We envision pulling the Ark to different locations throughout the winter as it nears completion so all the residents are aware of its potential uses. We have identified Valentino Park, Coffey Park, and the Red Hook Recreation Center as initial locations for “parking” the Ark.

Potential uses for the Ark can be, but are not limited to: outdoor classroom, emergency preparedness workshops, recycling and composting events, voter registration drives, award podium for sporting events, dance and music performances, art exhibits, movie screening, story telling, science fairs, book swaps, nutrition and recipe exchange, poetry slams, puppet shows, book reading and signing, PSA and community resource events.

  • A blog will be created to promote each of the community events, share questions or concerns, share photos and success stories, and potentially have the master schedule of events.
  • Finale! For the Ark for the Arts parade of 2018, the community can design a float based on the community’s tastes, Red Hook’s history, culture, water theme, etc. We can parade through the streets of Red Hook with the groups of Ark for the Arts participants, HS band and community organizations to the pier at Valentino Park, and launch the boat into the water… and of course, it would be nice to have a picnic with live music!