What is FIGMENT?


Find more information on our About FIGMENT page!


FIGMENT demonstrates what the arts can be: participatory, bursting with creativity and completely free, born from the desire to share imagination and invention between artists and the public.

FIGMENT is a grassroots effort, organized and run entirely by volunteers as a gift to our cities because we believe in the aspirations and mission of FIGMENT. We believe that FIGMENT addresses a number of key issues:

Problem #1: Lack of Opportunity for Emerging Artists

We aim to provide as many opportunities for emerging artists as possible, creating an inclusive and participatory alternative to the high-end gallery scene. FIGMENT invites everyone to participate, regardless of socioeconomic background, age, race, gender, or any other discriminating factor. The main goal of our curatorial process is not to limit or restrict participation by weeding out artists, but to encourage all artists to make their work as participatory in nature as possible.

Problem #2: Access to the Arts for All

One of our main priorities is to lower the barriers to entry for audiences as well as artists. While museum and theater admission is often prohibitively expensive for families, particularly in these economic times, FIGMENT is committed to producing its event and exhibitions at no charge for artists and participants. From a demographic perspective, our artists and our audience are as diverse as our cities are.

Problem #3: Passivity in Our Society

We have created a culture of spectatorship, wherein people are often more comfortable watching than doing or creating. It is often noted that this hinders the development of creativity in our youth, and it also limits the building of strong communities. FIGMENT?s focus is on art that is created by a community working in collaboration, art that is created or enhanced by the input of its audience, or art that must be directly engaged with in order to be appreciated. FIGMENT intends for everyone who comes to the event be a participant, so that FIGMENT itself can be seen as one large collaborative art project. Ideally, no one is a spectator. We are all connected, and we are all creators.

Problem #4: Lack of Community among Urban Residents

For a variety of reasons, many city dwellers lack a sense of community. Many of the inhabitants of our cities are transitional: moving to the city to pursue education or a career, then relocating elsewhere as their circumstances change. FIGMENT seeks to provide a community-based experience that is open to everyone, giving even the most temporary of residents a place to belong. With an emphasis on participatory art, FIGMENT encourages connections among audiences and artists, as everyone participates as collaborators in the creative process. Participatory arts include any works of art that require the interaction of participants, bringing together artists and community members in ways that build relationships and unlock individual creativity. The result is art as dialogue, rather than monologue; this dialogue forms the basis for a collaborative, constructive community.

Problem #5: Few Places for Young Families to Go

FIGMENT engages youth and families. It attracts a large number of children and young families. Children enjoy that FIGMENT's culture is about getting your hands dirty and working with others to create. At FIGMENT, it's okay to touch; in fact, it's encouraged. Part of the FIGMENT ethos is that education comes from engagement. At the same time, FIGMENT is not a 'just for kids' environment. We often hear adults comment that they 'feel like kids' at FIGMENT. Given an opportunity, even adults are able to play, have fun, and look at the world with fresh eyes.

Problem #6: Identifying New Uses for Underutilized Public Space

FIGMENT was originally created specifically for New York City's Governors Island. Since the City acquired Governors Island from the Coast Guard in 2003, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) has been engaged in a public process to imagine a future for the island that is economically sustainable and that serves the community. As there are no residents of the island, it essentially belongs to all of us. What better way to create a new vision for the island than through art projects that invite everyone to participate and that build community in the process? We hope to apply this approach to other underutilized public assets that are in need of exploration and revitalization.

Problem #7: Oversaturation of Branding and Commercialism

We strive to create a culture free from buying, selling, and advertising. So often, our experiences in today's world are mediated by ads, logos, and sales pitches. FIGMENT accepts no corporate sponsorship whatsoever. At FIGMENT, a logo should never interfere with your personal experience: here, your experience is not for sale.

Problem #8: Living in a Time of Scarcity

At FIGMENT, you don't need currency to be rich: FIGMENT invites people to discover what’s really important. Indeed, at a time when so many people are struggling to get by, we are proud to celebrate an abundance of inspiration. Despite the scarcity all around us, there is no shortage of creativity, innovation, and passion. FIGMENT provides a place where people can bring the plentiful gifts that they have to offer... and share the wealth.

Vision. Mission. Values.

We seek to empower everyone to create and share, transforming our communities and our society through participation and creativity.

Our mission is to create participatory and inclusive cultural events and experiences that build community and inspire personal and social transformation.

We believe fundamentally that every human being is equally important, and that a just society is one that makes room for the participation and expression of everyone. In order to create a world in which this is possible, we have adopted eleven founding principles that summarize our values: Participation, Decommodification, Inclusion, Expression, Self-Reliance, Giving, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Immediacy, and Gratitude.

What are FIGMENT's 11 Principles?

Drawing inspiration from other community-based arts events, the development, production, and experience of FIGMENT are guided by these 11 principles:

Transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play.

FIGMENT seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We will not substitute consumption for experience.

Anyone may be a part of FIGMENT; no prerequisites exist for participation except willingness to work and play. We welcome and respect the stranger.

Each individual and collaborating group has unique qualities, and through self-expression can offer a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of others.

FIGMENT encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

FIGMENT is devoted to acts of gift giving and volunteering. FIGMENT itself is a gift from volunteer artists and event staff, who hope that each participant brings an attitude of giving. Giving does not imply a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

We seek to create an environment ripe for each individual to achieve personal artistic transformation — but the creation of such an environment can be done only through creative cooperation and collaboration.

Each participant in FIGMENT is responsible for creating a civil environment for all other participants. We endeavor to produce this event in a way that fosters a civil society and that is socially responsible.

Taking everything with you and throwing it away is a great start, but it is only the beginning. We have to consider the long-term impact of everything we do, and continually find ways to decrease our impact on the natural environment.

Too often the limit for creative expression is the barrier between our inner selves and the selves that we present to the world. By breaking down that barrier, we can gain a profound appreciation for the opportunities that lie in each time and place.

We believe it is important to remind ourselves where we come from, and to appreciate what has been given to us to get us to where we are. We are not entitled to anything, and approach our relations to others from a place of gratitude for their efforts.

FIGMENT Annual Report

CLICK to download our FIGMENT 2015 Annual Report, covering all our events and activities in the 2015 calendar year: