Projections light up Floyd Bennett Field at inaugural arts festival

floyd bennett field art exhibit
Floyd Bennett Field hosted its inaugural arts festival from April 19-21.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

It was all about the arts at Floyd Bennett Field last weekend as the Jamaica Bay-Rockaways Parks Conservancy hosted its inaugural Floyd Bennett Field! Arts Festival in partnership with the National Park Service at Gateway National Recreation Area.

The three-day festival kicked off on April 19 with an opening reception and a preview of projection mapping artwork, illuminating the 11,000-square-foot façade of the historic hangars three and four. The festivities featured the work of 24 artists, including renowned artists Derrick Adams, Peter Burr, Eto Otitigbe, and Ryan Hartley Smith, and emerging artists from Brooklyn College and the Fashion Institute of Technology, collectively telling the story of Floyd Bennett Field and the future of the park and buildings.”

floyd bennett field art exhibit
The exhibit featured projections and light shows. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The hangars are part of a major two-phase revitalization project. The first phase is a $26 million historic rehabilitation of the structure’s exterior, funded by the Great American Outdoors Act. The second part, financed with matching funds by JBRPC, focuses on the interior, which will be equipped with an innovation hub that includes public programming opportunities, amenities for park visitors, and research and development facilities tackling nature-based solutions and coastal resilience.

Jennifer Nersesian, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, told Brooklyn Paper that the National Park Service and JPRPC had been looking into revitalizing New York City’s first municipal airport for years.

“One of the biggest and most exciting projects we’re taking on is the rehabilitation of the historic airplane hangars three and four. And tonight’s festivities really help kick that off, and celebrate that and bring [the hangers] into a whole new kind of focus using art to showcase it and bring the public in to help envision what Floyd Bennett field is going to become,” Nersesian said. 

floyd bennett field art festival
Jennifer Nersesian and Terri Carta attended the opening night of the Floyd Bennett Field! Arts Festival. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Terri Carta, JPRPC’s executive director, told Brooklyn Paper that the featured artists had a connection to the cultural landmark.

“We’re very proud of bringing in this collection of artists who bring diverse styles and diverse stories to this longer arc of history of Floyd Bennett field; in its past, its present, and its future,” Carta said.

After the reception, guests and artists ventured to the lawn in front of the hangars for the big moment: the projection mapping artwork. 

Projection mapping artwork is a 3D video projection technique with lights and colors that casts virtual images on irregular shapes and buildings with uneven surfaces. 

Renowned artist Derrick Adams’ latest animation, “The Sky Isn’t the Limit, It’s Only The View,” was part of the exhibit. The 5-minute short celebrates the various topographies and waterways of New York City and the lower Hudson Region as a cast of characters take an aerial trip through skyscrapers, grassy hills, boat-filled marinas, and boardwalks. 

floyd bennett field art festival
Projection mapping artwork uses lights and colors that cast virtual images on irregular shapes and buildings with uneven surfaces. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Adams told Brooklyn Paper that he considers himself a multidisciplinary artist whose work ranges from paintings and sculptures to sound and video. 

“For this particular program and event tonight, I was commissioned to make a video piece that will be displayed tonight,” Adams said. “It’s a piece that I created that incorporates some of the visual iconography surrounding this particular region of the city.”

Adams was grateful and honored to be part of an art festival that involved the community. 

“I feel like it’s very different having these types of experiences because these are really for the people and not that commercial experience in galleries and museums,” Adams said. “There’s a certain type of modest-ness that I appreciate in these types of settings for people who want to come here for community engagement and to support creative culture in the City.”

floyd bennett arts festival
Artist Derrick Adams said the show felt like it was “for the people.” Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Emerging artist and Brooklyn College student Donghwi Han used motion graphics and some AI-generated graphics for his piece. 

“I was trying to have some [art] like time flowing from the past to the present,” Han said. 

The art festival was the first big show for Brooklyn College student Dakota Ray. Ray based her piece, titled “Astro Echoes and Aviation,” on stargazing events held regularly at Floyd Bennett Field. 

“My teacher picked me, and I was like, ‘Thank you, this is really nice,” Ray said. “Cause I don’t do that many shows.”