Art is a beach after Sandy

Art is a beach after Sandy
Photo by Hannah Palmer Egan

Go to beach and enjoy the waves — on the banks of the Gowanus.

The polluted canal isn’t known for warm, tropical waters, but in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive path, fine art and performance venue Gowanus Ballroom is hosting an art project that will transform the storm-ravaged space into a tropical paradise replete with a heated pool and life-size boats built by Belgain artist Benoit Verbeke.

Originally meant to bring a colorful addition to the lives of fisherman, Verbeke’s art project FlutuArte, or Floating Art, gathered artists from around the world to paint the tops of over 60 fishing boats in Rio de Janiero.

“[FlutuArte was] about bringing this beautiful thing into the fishermen’s lives. To see their faces when they saw the [boats’] rooftops, they looked really, really happy,” said Verbeke.

The plan was to bring some of this joy to Brooklyn on Nov. 17, but then Sandy blew in, putting the space literally underwater for several hours at the height of the storm.

“There were waves coming through here,” said Gowanus Ballroom owner Josh Young, pointing out places where seawater washed out sections of the wall, rising over four feet, corroding everything in its path, and postponing the event due to lack of power.

When power did come back, Verbeke and Young were both relieved to get to work.

“We were working by tiki-torches for a while,” Young said with a laugh.

Verbeke went ahead with building the boat installations standing in for the ones in Rio, which will serve as canvases for projections of the same paintings in Brazil. He also got to work on building a pop-up pool which he will heat with propane for bikini-clad (or not so bikini-clad) bathers’ pleasure.

As if kicking off the holiday season in pop-up heated pool in a storm-ravaged gallery wasn’t surreal enough, additional entertainment will be provided by aerialists, fire-wielding performances, and stilt-walkers.

Young has also set up an IndieGoGo campaign, which will reward donors with art pieces, music lessons, or bona fide bits of the Brooklyn Bridge, salvaged from a past renovation. During the event, Gowanus Ballroom will also accept canned goods, clothing, toiletries, etc., and redistribute these to others in need, post-Sandy.

All proceeds from the FlutuArte event will fund the clean-up, repair, and re-building of the shop.

The Gowanus Ballroom began as a side-project to Young’s work in the metal-shop; he had extra room in the shop and wanted to share it with the community.

“You only live once,” Young said. “Why not build something you can enjoy while you’re here?”

FlutuArte, Save the Gowanus Ballroom at the Gowanus Ballroom [55 Ninth St. at back of building, off service alley, (347) 460–2687, www.gowanusballroom.com]. Nov. 24, 6 pm–5 am, $15.