‘The Art of Coney Island’ takes center stage at new Red Hook art show

One of the many works inspired by the People’s Playground, on display at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition’s newest show: “The Art of Coney Island.”

The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition is back with a summer art show that chronicles “the ups and downs of Coney Island’s amusement park and beach.”

From July 10 through Aug. 15 at the BWAC gallery in Red Hook, visitors can witness “The Art of Coney Island,” which features approximately 100 artists and their work.

Alicia Degener, the juror and curator for the show, told Brooklyn Paper that she hopes visitors can get a true view of the “vitality, vibrancy, and fun” of Coney Island through the artists’ various takes on the theme.

For Marie Roberts, one of the show’s featured artists, the concept hit a particularly personal note.

Roberts is a native Brooklynite whose grandmother was born in Red Hook, and whose family moved to Coney Island in 1890. Born and raised in Coney Island, Roberts grew up around the circus sideshow atmosphere, with her uncle and father working at the Dreamland Circus Sideshow.

“For me being part of this exhibition is like combining two halves of my life: the place I am in now in Coney Island and the place my ancestors came from,” she said.

Roberts has nine pieces being featured in the show, including circus banners she painted for Coney Island USA to advertise the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.

One of Marie Roberts’ pieces.BWAC

She is also a member of the board of directors and an artist-in-residence at Coney Island USA, a non-profit arts organization that strives to “defend the honor of American popular culture” and make Coney Island “once again a center for live art and entrepreneurial spirit.”

“[Circus sideshows are] such a historical form of entertainment in the US and it’s so wonderful that now in 2021 it is still bringing these live performances to people,” Roberts said. “My paintings are celebrating that.”

From its establishment in the 1800s as a resort area and through years of boom and decay, Coney Island and its residents, especially its artists and performers, embody the spirit of the “adaptability of survival.”

“Coney Island artists are such a strong community,” Degener said.

Among the other creators in the show, the exhibition will also feature work from Coney Island residents and artists Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano.

There will be an opening reception for the artists on Saturday, July 10, from 1-6 pm.

A Coney Island-themed piano donated to the show by non-profit Sing For Hope.BWAC

In honor of this art show, Sing for Hope — a non-profit that partners with other community-based organizations to mobilize artists and produces artist created pianos — has donated a Coney Island-themed piano called Luna (named after the amusement park Luna Park) to BWAC.

In addition to the piano, those who attend the show’s opening reception will be treated to live acts by Coney Island performers who are taking the stage after more than a year off of performing due to the coronavirus pandemic — including a magician, a sword swallower, mermaids and mermen.

“Coney Island is such a unique place that has been through so much hardship, but has managed to come through and survive,” Degener said. “It’s still America’s playground.”

The BWAC Gallery, 481 Van Brunt St. in Red Hook, is open weekends from 1-6 pm. “The Art of Coney Island” will be on view from Saturday, July 10 through Sunday, Aug. 15.