2009: Growing in the face of uncertainty

As the group looked toward FIGMENT 2009, a lot of uncertainty surrounded the future of Governors Island: New York State budget cuts in the face of recession might force the island to close. But the team continued to expand its vision for FIGMENT. The City of Dreams would now include an interactive sculpture garden as well as a mini-golf course, and the mini-golf course itself would double in size to 18 holes.

Fundraising and team-building began in earnest, as Kevin Balktick and David Koren worked on alternate location strategies: what if Governors Island could not open for the 2009 season? They met with officials from a number of other public agencies related to parkland in New York, trying to come up with an acceptable Plan B, but none of the options could compare to the island. Thankfully, when the state budget was released in April, the island was included in the budget and saved for 2009.
In 2009, FIGMENT focused on its branding efforts, under the direction and guidance of Brand Advocate Sasha Koren. Sheri Koetting, Marc Levitt, and Ellen Johnston of MSLK created a new logo, overall look, and print materials for FIGMENT 2009, and Archer Hutchinson created a new website.

Grant applications and inquiry letters yielded six grants for FIGMENT and its projects in 2009. In addition, the team held its first art-preview fundraising event, Groundbreaking, under the leadership of Mara Sorkin and Peggy Yuen, as well as a night-time fundraising party, Overboard, held in the ferry slip of the Battery Maritime Building, and organized by Kevin Balktick.
One of the most significant achievements in the preparations for FIGMENT 2009 was securing the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Commission from the Greenwall Foundation for four proposed sculptures for the City of Dreams: The Temple of Truth (by Jen Upchurch, Chris Niederer, and Douglas Hart), HiveMind (by Deborah Yoon), Rhythm & Rest (by the Animus Collective) and Discarded (by Benjamin Jones and Anna Hecker). These four large pieces formed the core of the City of Dreams sculpture program.

FIGMENT 2009 showed a dramatic increase in participation from artists and volunteers. Over 400 projects were submitted, reviewed and coordinated by a curatorial team of nearly 30 volunteers, led by Curatorial Directors Audrey Boguchwal and Rae Klein. The entire planning team consisted of 90 people, with over 200 additional volunteers helping out throughout the process or at the event.

FIGMENT 2009, on June 12-14, brought 13,331 participants to the island, setting a new record for the biggest weekend on the island. In addition, the City of Dreams has received a significant amount of attention for both the season-long sculpture exhibition and the expanded mini-golf course. Over the course of the 2009 season, over 275,000 people visited the island, and at least 100,000 of these visited the City of Dreams to enjoy the sculpture and play minigolf. Press outlets featuring the City of Dreams include The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal, and NY1.

FIGMENT co-presents New Island Festival

Towards the end of the 2009 summer season, FIGMENT was asked to partner with other New York cultural organizations to co-present the New Island Festival, a performing arts festival co-created by two leading Dutch Festivals, Oerol and De Parade. It was an honor for FIGMENT to be listed as a co-presenter along with organizations such as The Joyce Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, St. Ann’s, Watermill Center, Under the Radar, HERE, PS 122, and many others. As part of the two-week-long festival (September 10-20, 2009), FIGMENT curated a group of performances and activities in the FIGMENT Terrace area of the island where the minigolf course and sculpture garden were located, all day Saturday and Sunday for both weekends.

Since the New Island Festival kept the island open until midnight, FIGMENT decided to try to do events at night on the island for the first time, programming FIGMENT Terrace until 11pm on two sequential Saturday evenings. Artists including Chris Jordan, Aaron Taylor Kuffner, Jason Blakkat, Ad Hoc Arts, the Glass Bead Collective, and many others came out to keep the terrace alive into the night.