I spent a day at Governor’s Island over the holiday weekend, and it was a treat. The island has gone from military installation to art destination in a few short years, and it’s a great place to relax, get away, and indulge in some art.
Let’s get this out of the way first–it’s incredibly easy to get there. The ferry leaves from Lower Manhattan next door to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal (also from 33rd Street and Brooklyn) and took exactly nine minutes from shore to shore. No joke, impatient New Yorkers. And once you arrive, it’s a delight for walkers and bikers because there are almost no vehicles (the occasional golf cart carrying Personnel from Somewhere doing Something excepted).
The island is made for strolling along fairly circuitous paths; there is no Manhattan-style grid. You can’t even see where you’re going, since the paths wind so much, and that lent some charm for us. There are picnic opportunities, a beach bar with sand and volleyball courts, and strolls along the waterfront. For art, there are wide-open spaces ripe with sculptural installations, like the current work by Mark di Suvero.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council uses studio space in one of the many former military buildings; artists can be found lingering outside doorways that lead to studios or pop-up galleries. Even though Manhattan is only nine minutes away, Governor’s Island has the feel of a remote artist’s residency. By that, I mean the chance for calm and reflection, away from the everyday experience. There is a gravitas to the stately buildings, and some of the more residential ones physically resemble the buildings at the Vermont Studio Center, with their front porches and low-key vibe.
Governor’s Island hosts artists’ sales, festivals like the NY Electronic Arts Festival and is worth checking out.
Bonus: the ferry is free!