Striking the balance between the preservation of New York City’s historic sites and public access to them can be a challenge. The site of an incomplete and abandoned Civil War fort, Fort Totten Park in Queens is undoubtedly an important historical asset, though it remains largely unknown to the general public (though there was spike in interest thanks to an Iron Throne that was hidden there in the promotion of the last season of Game of Thrones). Now, thanks to recent creative initiatives to open the park up to the public, visitors will be able to explore the area like they never have before.
New York City based artist Aaron Asis, along with Untapped Cities Chief Experience Officer and playwright Justin Rivers, are bringing art into the park to highlight its historical significance and engage the public with stories of its past. In a new mini-documentary, Unforgotten, which you can watch below, Asis, Rivers, and park personnel explore the challenge of activating this unique historic and public space. And, if you are an Untapped Cities Insider, you can be the first to experience these special events before the park opens to the public this Saturday, June 15th.
“This film takes a collaborative approach to story telling…focused on the value of history and access in our parks,” says Asis. “Once we started working on the film, we realized Totten was a special spot…and I really wanted to give people an opportunity to experience some of it’s content, firsthand.” Along with the film, Asis created a site-specific art installation, Fortified, which will be on view for one-weekend-only this coming Saturday and Sunday, June 15th-June 16th. “The installation itself pulls you in, around, and through the incomplete Battery — but has a very light touch to accentuate but not distract from the open access experience.” The installation is made up of a series of cords that highlight different features and anomalies throughout the stone battery structure. Construction of the battery began in 1862 and stopped in 1864 when the technology being used to build it became obsolete. It remains unfinished to this day.
In addition to Asis’ art, this weekend the park will also host performances of a theatrical experience, Dark Passage, written by Justin Rivers. The experience will take visitors through the darkened vaults of the Main Magazine, a space once used to store ammunition. “Programs at the Main Magazine and Endicott Battery will also feature this light touch — to balance activation with a focus on interacting with historical structures themselves,” says Asis. Inside the Endicott Battery, rangers will lead guests on a guided tour through the decaying concrete structure which is usually off-limits to the public.
Next, check out 18 of NYC’s Former Military Forts