The Free Art Festival You’d Be Crazy to Miss

Read next

If you’ve never been to FIGMENT NYC (especially with a kid), we’re jealous. This weekend-long, whimsical and slightly madcap art explosion with a populist and sustainable bent has been taking over Governors Island since 2007. (It’s now spread to 12 cities in three countries on two continents.) FIGMENT NYC officially bills itself as a “free, annual celebration of participatory art and culture,” but the bottom line is, it’s a fun and stimulating way to spend a summer day from start to finish. Here’s what you can expect this year (both this weekend and all summer long) and the scoop on doing FIGMENT NYC 2015.


Ferry photo: FIGMENT NYC/Bill Kennedy

Getting There

Governors Island is one of those New York locales that seems far away and mysterious until you go there — at which point you say, “Wow, this is really cool.” Since it is an island, you (obviously) take a boat there, the Governor’s Island Ferry, which means the day even starts out fun with a quick boat ride.

During FIGMENT NYC weekend, visitors taking the 10 a.m., 11 a.m., or 11:30 a.m. ferries from Manhattan and the 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. ferries from Brooklyn ride free. Children under 12 ride the ferry free at all times, and adults can purchase $2 round-trip tickets online or at the dock for afternoon ferries. More info on taking the ferry can be found here. (Note: You can also bring bikes on the boat or rent ones when you get to the island.)


Treehouse photo: Alex Taferner/Figment NYC


FIGMENT is all about getting art out of white-walled galleries and staid museums and inviting people to be a part of it. Visitors are encourages to touch, climb and taste art, as well as dance with it, talk with it, play with it and learn from it. Organizers of FIGMENT NYC promise “sculpture, street theater, costuming, inflatable art, dance, performance art, installations, social experiments, mobile art, workshops, games, arts & crafts, bands, DJs” — and more. So, you know, something for everyone. (You can see a full list of participants here.)


 Aqua Attack photo: Jason Eppink via Flickr

FIGMENT NYC Weekend Highlights, June 6 & 7

Dozens and dozens of artists are participating in the FIGMENT NYC event this year. Highlights of the FIGMENT NYC weekend program include “Aqua Attack”, an imaginary Japanese game show in which players dress up and battle using super-soaked plush toys while standing in kiddie pools; “We’d Like to Teach the World to Belly Dance”,  an improvised dance performance by Belly Dance Company Manhattan Tribal (they’ll also be giving lessons), and presentations by the group Guerilla Science, which  mixes art, science and play in games, quizzes, experiments and more. Another cool project which also happens to educate about pollution and ecological conservation: “The Stockpile of Beneficial Mudballs.” The piece enlists participants to throw dry bioremediation mudballs — which organically help prevent toxins from entering the food chain —  into the river.


2014 installation photo: Anthony Collins/FIGMENT

FIGMENT NYC All Summer Long

Installations and interactive sculptures are always a big part of the festival, both literally and figuratively, and many stick around to be enjoyed all summer long. Benjamin Jones’ technicolor celebration of sustainability “TreeHouse” returns for a fifth year, and will itself be filled with art pieces in areas such as the balcony, lookout, and gazebo.

Two over-sized pieces were selected to make up this year’s “City of Dreams” pavilions: Billion Oyster Pavillion by BanG Studio and Organic Growth from Izaskun Chinchilla Architects. Other sculptures include a giant structure of interlocking picnic tables and a huge trippy green couch.

FIGMENT NYC also features a free, artist-designed mini-golf course every year; the theme of 2015’s course is “Transportation” and the holes will explore the history or transportation, as well its environmental and economic impacts.


Mini-golf photo: Scott Lynch/FIGMENT

The Basic Info

FIGEMENT NYC Weekend will take place on Governors Island June 6 & 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. Food is for sale on site, although you’re also encouraged to bring a picnic.

Summer-long FIGMENT installations will be on site from June 6 to September 25 and be accessible any time Governors Island is open to the public. The Sculpture Program will be installed on the Governors Island Parade Grounds.

Governors Island

Governors Island Ferry online:

Have you ever attended FIGMENT? Tell us about your visit in the comments below!

—Mimi O’Connor