Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space (2012)

2012 Exhibition

Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space
Artists’ visions for public space

Above image: detail from Rebecca Hackemann,The Idea of the Gowanus Extension, 2012, drawing, archival ink on archival paper, 11.5” x 15.5”



Exhibition dates: April 5-June 24, 2012

Exhibition Opening: Thursday, April 5, 2012, 7:30-9:30pm
**Patrons’ Reception and Curator/Artist tour: 6:30-7:30pm**
Location: Old Stone House and Washington Park, 336 3rd St (between 4th and 5th Avenues, Brooklyn)
Hours:  Thursday & Friday, 4 pm – 6 pm/Saturday & Sunday 11 am – 4 pm
Due to OSH’s busy event schedule, call 718-768-3195 to confirm weekend hours.

Project Director and Curator: Katherine Gressel

Aritst Selection Committee: Katherine Gressel, Curator; Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Arts & Antiquities, NYC Parks Department;  and Kim Maier, Executive Director, Old Stone House.

Exhibiting Artists: Stephanie Beck, Lynn Cazabon, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Tamara Gayer, Christine Gedeon, Groundswell Community Mural Project, Rebecca Hackemann, Husk, Bettina Johae, Karen Kaapcke, Jess Levey, Cheryl Molnar, Will Pappenheimer, Marina Zamalin

With temporary workshops and events led by: Tracy Candido, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Circle Rules Federation, Gigantic MechanicGroundswell Community Mural Project, Bettina Johae, Will Pappenheimer, Triada Samaras, Kat Schneck

Utopia:An ideal place or state.
Imagine a Brooklyn Utopia.

Brooklyn Utopiasis an ongoing exhibit and event series, founded in 2009, in which artists, youth, activists, architects, designers and urban theorists consider differing visions of an ideal city through the “concrete” example of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Spaceat the Old Stone House & Washington Park (OSH) now brings together 19 artists and arts groups to address the ideal design, planning and use of public parks. Parks, playgrounds, and other public gathering spaces were historically designed as solutions to a range of urban problems from eliminating neighborhood blight to promoting health and wellness. Brooklyn, and New York City as a whole, are home to some of the grandest endeavors in urban landscaping–from Olmsted and Vaux’s Central Park and Prospect Park, to Robert Moses’ numerous playgrounds and pools, to the new Brooklyn Bridge Park—as well as grassroots neighborhood efforts. Artists in Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space were invited to respond to existing notions of “utopian” park design and use, and/or envision their own. The exhibit corresponds with opening ceremonies for the newly renovated Washington Park/J.J. Byrne Playground surrounding OSH. This provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the future of our parks.

Gallery Exhibit

Visitors are greeted at the exhibition entrance by abstracted maps by Stephanie Beck and Christine Gedeon that suggest ideal layouts of open space in cities. Inside, Rebecca Hackemann also employs vintage “utopian” mapping methods to imagine a familiar symbol of urban blight—the nearby Gowanus Canal–as an extended creek free of pollution. Marina Zamalin and Lynn Cazabon’s videos and photos offer a closer look at some of Brooklyn’s lesser-known natural environments.

Lynn Cazabon, “Uncultivated_12.03.17 (40.672632, -73.984672),” pigment ink jet print, 30″x 19″ (showing native plants on the borders of Washington Park outside OSH)

Brooklyn’s parks’ and streetscapes’ ongoing development also prompts questions of access as well as process. Video collage artist Jess Levey presents a morphing snapshot of what an East Flatbush elementary school could be with more green/play space, according to the hopes and dreams of her students. Bettina Johae and Cheryl Molnar tackle parks’ relationship to eminent domain and gentrification through maps and timelines, and Karen Kaapcke’s plein-air Zuccotti Park paintings recall recent debates around the use (or mis-use) of public/private space raised by the 2011 Occupy protests. A poster by the Center for Urban Pedagogy addresses the often-challenging process behind public space design, while Groundswell Community Mural Project tells the more hopeful story of a collaborative school playground mosaic that also bridged cultural divisions in Borough Park.

Husk (Christina Kelly and Jeff Huchison), preliminary sketch for TUB (The Utopian Bath) Park

Other artists take a more “playful” approach to the theme, re-purposing common Brooklyn streetscape elements for recreational use. A flashing LED sign by Tamara Gayer on the House’s exterior, similar to corner store advertising tickers, invites visitors instead to “come play.” In Husk’s proposed T.U.B. (The Utopian Bath) Park, adults enjoy water tower hot tubs powered by children’s play. Will Pappenheimer’s augmented reality smartphone app similarly presents an alternative energy source for Washington Park: fantastical windmills that also reference OSH’s Dutch history.

Tamara Gayer, video still from “Come Play with Me,” a text piece displayed on an animated LED screen that hangs on the exterior of OSH. The messaging on the sign will be composed of verbal games focusing on “play”, switching between serious and imagined advertising for “Play.”

Events Series

An exciting events lineup will further engage visitors with the parks theme. Site-specific outdoor games led by Circle Rules Federation and Gigantic Mechanic explore the relationship between art, sports, and local history. Kat Schneck will lead more tranquil sky-watching sessions. Tracy Candido will stage same-sex marriage celebrations in Washington Park, in a symbolic “queering” of public space. Artist and community activist Triada Samaras’s mural-making workshop will facilitate collaborative brainstorming on the future of the “Public Place” brownfield in Gowanus.

About the Old Stone House & Washington Park

The Old Stone House (OSH) is a Robert Moses-era reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou House, a 1699 Dutch farmhouse that was the site of the largest
battle of the Revolutionary War – the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776.  In the late 1800’s, it became the home field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Located in Washington Park in Park Slope, Brooklyn, OSH is a cultural site and presenting organization dedicated to creating a strong sense of community through history, environmental education and the arts. It is part of the Historic House Trust of New York City, and funded primarily through individual donations, and with support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, and Consolidated Edison.

Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

2009-2010 Exhibitions

Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City  at the Old Stone House, 2010

Brooklyn Utopias? at the Old Stone House, Brooklyn Historical Society, and Starting Artists, Inc., 2009


One Response to “Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space (2012)”


  1. Save the date: Brooklyn Utopias: Park Space, Play Space! « Brooklyn Utopias - March 7, 2012

    […] Upcoming Exhibition […]

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