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Five years ago, we published a feature on George Trakas’ design for the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, an inspiring waterfront park lining the polluted waterway that separates northwest Brooklyn and western Queens. The nature walk was produced with funds from the City’s Percent for Art program, as part of the substantial public investment in the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility. Essential to Trakas’s design is public access to the water as well as seating, signage, and fencing inspired by local history. He is now hard at work on subsequent phases of this ambitious project. And he is only one of many artists who have drawn inspiration from Newtown Creek, from its unique history and ecology, from the scale of its environmental degradation, and from the energy of its activist community.
At the time we published this feature, Urban Omnibus was based at the Old American Can Factory on the banks of another polluted canal, the Gowanus. We covered the range of creative responses to that waterway as well, from design proposals to film screenings to birdhouses, and were consistently interested in the parallels between the Gowanus and Newtown. So we were delighted to learn that the interdisciplinary community culture space, Proteus Gowanus, is hosting an exhibition of 20 collaborative projects in which artists and scientists explore these two environments. Some of Trakas’ original sketches and models are included, alongside the video we produced about his process (embedded below).
The exhibition, Combined Overflow, is curated by UO friends Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright, who originally engaged with both of these sites as artists. According to them, the work presented “demonstrates extraordinary citizen involvement as New York City seeks to remediate these two tidal bodies. … The Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek share similar histories of industry, pollution and neglect. Both were designated as federal Superfund sites in 2010, and both are currently undergoing remediation, even as new residents are lured to their shorelines. Both have also inspired dedicated communities of artists, innovators and explorers, who have been working to collectively recalibrate these bodies of water as fertile sites of collaboration, invention and public engagement.”
The show is part of a multi-part exhibition exploration of the theme of Water. Earlier incarnations looked at Thirst — which included work on thirsty plants and materials as well as animals and people — and Containment — which included interpretations of reservoirs, floodwalls, bottles, and buckets. Hurry up and check it out. The show closes on May 24th.
On view: April 26th–May 24th, 2014
Located at the corner of Union and Nevins Streets in Brooklyn. The building is next to the Gowanus Canal at the Union Street Bridge. Entrance to the gallery is off Nevins Street: enter through the large black gates, walk down the alleyway to the end, second door on the left. Look for the golden arm above the gallery door.
Gallery Hours: Thursday & Friday, 3–6 pm; Saturday & Sunday, 12–6 pm
Curators: Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, Sarah Nelson Wright
Exhibiting Artists: Wendy Andringa, Liz Barry, Sarah Christman, Willis Elkins, Eymund Diegel, Jose Gaytan, Jan Mun, Leif Percifield, George Trakas, Mitch Waxman, Jenifer Wightman
Exhibiting Groups: Brooklyn Atlantis, The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, The Newtown Creek Alliance, The Newtown Creek Armada, The North Brooklyn Boat Club, Urban Omnibus
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.