This is the first winter Governors Island has been open to the public, after announcing last fall they would now be a year-round destination. And to entice visitors over on the ferry during the chilly season, Colonels Row has become home to a Winter Village on the weekends, featuring an ice skating rink, fire pits, and a couple of concessions. But after today the Village will be shut down, three weeks before spring hits.
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To help celebrate the inaugural run, the Trust for Governors Island, in partnership with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, threw an exuberant ice sculpting exhibition on Saturday, as ten teams of artists turned blocks of ice into glistening pieces of temporary artworks.
"The goal was to have a really great event in the winter when there's not a lot of public art, get money in the hands of artists, make new work, and have a moment of joy at a time when we all need a moment of joy," the Trust's head curator Meredith Johnson told Gothamist. Each team was paid $2000, thanks to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
The ten individual artists (or teams of artists) were chosen from nearly 100 submissions that came via an open call from the LMCC last month and, as it turned out, none of them had any prior experience working with ice. Thankfully, a team of pros from Long Island City's Okamoto Studio were on hand to train them all in how to use the tools of the trade — which range from chainsaws to chisels, grinders to blowtorches — and then coach them through the actual creation.
Each artist had two hours to complete their piece, and most of the completed work bore some relevance to the location on New York Harbor.
Parson's graduate students Shay Salehi and Rengu Zhang teamed up to make an origami boat, a reference to the 10,000 paper sculptures made in prison by Chinese nationals seeking asylum after their smuggler's vessel, the cargo ship Golden Venture, ran aground in 1993 at Fort Tilden.
Yuliya Tsukerman took home the People's Choice award for her sheep's head sculpture, which she said was inspired by her lunchtime picnic companions last summer — Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries — who "worked" on the island gorging on invasive plants. Chad Stayrock was named Most Ambitious for his off-pedestal Shipwreck, and the Artist's Choice award went to Hannah Schulman and her infinity symbol.
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Elizabeth Meggs won the Carver's Choice trophy (which itself was made of ice, of course) for her typographic piece WOW MOM, which she told Gothamist "relates to the Lenape people who lived here originally and were a matrilineal society." She added, "Also, after the really sad couple of years of the pandemic I just felt like doing something with a good, positive message."
Even though the ice rink and fire pits of the Winter Village will be hauled off after today, Governors Island remains open to the public daily, and Winter Dog Days are continuing on Saturdays, the only time non-service dogs are allowed on the property. The ice sculptures also remain on site for viewing, and will be melting in place.