Governors Island, the partially man-made piece of land in New York Harbor just minutes from Manhattan via ferry, has become an important hub for the arts. Over the years, the Island has attained a unique character, repurposing its many historic buildings as facilities for the arts and education and enhancing its natural beauty to become a destination that New Yorkers and visitors can enjoy year-round. A major step towards that goal was accomplished this week as the first permanent arts space, LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island, opened to the public. Housed inside a former warehouse, the 40,000-square-foot space is dedicated to public performances, exhibitions and artist residencies, visual and performing arts studios and the Island’s first indoor cafe.

The new arts space has transformed an 1870s former ordnance warehouse on the waterfront within the Governors Island Historic District. Many of the original architectural features of the brick and timber building have been highlighted in the new modern space. The interior renovation was designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Adamson Associates Architects with engineering by BuroHappold Engineering. The historic building was upgraded with high efficiency and energy saving systems that bring it into the 21st-century, but still allow beautiful original architectural features to shine. BuroHappold partner Craig Schwitter notes that by saving the building which had been unused for twenty years since the Coast Guard left, “we saved the embodied energy in the building – the brick, wood, glass, steel and other materials…This will hopefully add to the potential for reuse of other buildings – creating a virtuous cycle of reuse and carbon efficient footprint use.” “As our first permanent cultural tenant on Governors Island, LMCC’s Arts Center is a model for how the historic district can be reimagined for the 21st century,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island.

On the first floor, visitors will step into a large open cafe area, the first indoor cafe on the island. Moving further into the space, there are two large galleries with exposed brick walls, timber ceilings and amazing views of Manhattan outside the windows. Currently on display in the ground floor gallery is Michael Wang’s Extinct in New York, a large-scale installation made up of four greenhouses filled with plant, lichen and algae species that were historically documented in New York City but that no longer growing in the wild.

Heading upstairs, visitors will really get to see the bones of the building. New white walls cover up most of the brick, but overhead, the exposed wooden roof trusses create a dramatic space that blends the old and the new in the second floor event space and gallery. Below the historic roof trusses, new art from Yto Barrada with guest artist Bettina investigates issues of ecology, sustainability and history in a site-specific exhibition, The Power of Two Suns.

Passing through the gallery is the heart of the arts center, studio spaces that will provide creative space to twenty individual artists, ensembles and choreographers as part of the center’s year-round artist residency program. In this incubator space, artists will explore themes of social justice, social practice, New York City Harbor and Governors Island history, climate change, and water. Resident artists will have access to their own dedicated studio space as well as access to all of the Arts Center’s common, shared spaces like dance studios and rehearsal rooms.

“For over 45 years, LMCC has championed artists and their visions in transforming urban spaces,” said Diego S. Segalini, LMCC’s Executive Director of Finance & Administration. “LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island is a gift to all New Yorkers in a time of intense economic inequity and ecological crisis. The Arts Center will be a space of conversation and thought. It reflects the mission and values of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to serve and connect artists and communities on a human and personal scale, completely aligned with Governors Island’s commitment to the City, water and the environment.”

Photograph by Zachary Tyler Newton, Courtesy of LMCCs Arts Center at Governors Island

The Arts Center will be open Thursday through Sunday during the remainder of Governors Island’s public season from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. LMCC’s Arts Center is accessible by ferries to Governors Island operating to and from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Arts Center is just a 2-minute walk from the Soissons Landing pier.

Visit the brand new arts center this weekend after exploring the rest of the island with us on our Secrets of Governor’s Island walking tour!

The Secrets of Governors Island Walking Tour

Next, check out 20 New Public Art Installations Not to Miss This September 2019