Offshore park Little Island announces resident artists ahead of spring opening

January 28, 2021

Photo of Little Island under construction in October 2020; Photo: © CityRealty

Developers of the new public park under construction in the Hudson River announced on Wednesday the participants of its first-ever artists-in-residence program. Artists Ayodele Casel, Tina Landeau, Michael McElroy, and PigPen Theatre Co., will perform, direct, and/or curate cultural events for Little Island, the two-acre offshore park at Hudson River Park’s Pier 55 expected to open this spring.

In addition to creating experiences for park-goers, the artists of the three-year residency will engage with community partners and help organize festivals and events. Casel, a tap dancer and choreographer, will work with collaborator Torya Beard during her residency at Little Island.

“I’m looking forward to being in the community again with my city,” Casel said in a statement. “Music and dance have the power to bring such joy, and to unite across all walks of life. I am grateful for the opportunity to revel in some magic making at Little Island!”

Landau, whose credits include Broadway productions of Spongebob SquarePants and Superior Donuts, plans to create a series of one-off events, a “buffet of performance, educational, and community events aimed towards exploring, and making art from, the park itself.”

According to the New York Times, McElroy, an actor and singer who leads the Broadway Inspirational Voices choir, wants to organize a community-based initiative focused on seniors. And PigPen Theatre Co., known for their unique original plays and music, plan on putting on a variety of performance-based events.

“We hope to cultivate our own imaginations – as well as the imaginations of artists we love and admire – on the island via concerts, plays, festivals, educational workshops, and one-off special events,” the group said. “We are honored and humbled to consider it a home in New York for the next few years.”

Expected to open sometime this spring, the park’s cultural events will begin as the city’s indoor theaters and performance venues likely remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month unveiled the “New York Arts Revival” initiative to help bring art and culture back to the state. The effort involves a series of outdoor pop-up performances and arts events across New York starting February 4. Cuomo said the program will culminate with two “landmark” events: Little Island’s grand opening and the Tribeca Film Festival’s 20th anniversary.

“New York City is not New York without Broadway,” Cuomo said during his speech announcing the program. “We must bring culture and arts back to life.”

Designed by Heatherwick Studio and MNLA, Little Island resembles a leaf floating on water with a base of tulip-shaped pots. The park, which will feature four different landscape typologies at its four corners, will be home to a 700-seat amphitheater, a stage, and a playground. The wavy concrete support structure gives the park elevations varying between 15 and 63 feet, providing different perspectives from its designated overlook areas.

Funded by Barry Diller and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and run by the Hudson River Park Trust, Little Island’s cost is estimated at roughly $250 million. Diller originally proposed a futuristic park at the site in 2014, but opponents of the plan blocked construction from starting for nearly three years until plans were abandoned. A deal apparently brokered by Cuomo helped revive the project.


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