In Atlantic City, a set of five outdoor public art installations, curated by the non-profit arts group Fung Collaboratives, were created within a landscape designed by Balmori Associates and Cairone & Kaupp. The first piece, the $3 million Artlantic: wonder, had its preview just a few days after Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc in New Jersey. In this case, not even the second most destructive storm in U.S. history could stop this art from happening.
Fung Collective says that “these new creative spaces will function as public meeting places, fostering social interaction and reinvigorating the community culturally and socially.” Also, the non-profit organization writes that a new Artlantic piece will be created every year up until 2016, at a total cost of $13 million. Every year, the team will “provide a unique theme reflective of Atlantic City’s environment, architecture, and history, and will invite the participating artists and designers to develop projects specific to each site.” The Atlantic City Alliance (ACA), a marketing agency, and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) has put up the money to create the art installations in an effort to support the local community and boost Atlantic City’s already considerable tourist numbers. Interestingly, the sites are just on temporary loan from private owners.
According to Fung, Artlantic: wonder is located in two separate sites, one is seven acres and the other 8,500 square-feet. The New York Times writes that just a few months ago the seven-acre site was a barren gravel-filled void. Now, it provides a base for works by conceptual artists Illya and Emilia Kabakov, Kiki Smith, and Robert Barry. There are two open spaces “framed by one 14-foot-high and one 11-foot-high earth sculptures shaped like an infinity and covered in indigenous grasses and wildflowers.”
The earth sculptures created by Balmori Associates and Cairone & Kaupp “evoke the roller coasters, past and present, on the Steel Pier, an historic Atlantic City amusement pier.” The New York Times says that the newly-constructed forms only survived the onslaught of Sandy because they include about “22,000 sod staples, inserted just a day before the storm struck.”
The installation by Russian artist Kabakov is a “playful pirate ship that rises from the ground evoking the sunken pirate ships that line the ocean floor off New Jersey’s coast.”
Opposite the pirate ship is a garden by Smith, which is made up of “brilliant red foliage —plants with red flowers, red berries, or red leaves—that is intended to change with the seasons.” The garden will feature a sculpture by Smith called “Her,” which has a “woman tenderly embracing a doe.”
Within the earth sculpture, Robert Barry offers brightly colored, illuminated text pieces. These “will become alive at night, engaging in an informal dialogue with the city lights and the bold signage that adorns the Boardwalk.”
The second smaller site will eventually be home to Étude Atlantis by John Roloff, set within “minimalistic landscaping comprised of Japanese Black Pines” designed by Cairone & Kaupp. The concept here is to “find Atlantis” and “connect Atlantic City with the opposite side of the world—the sea floor off the southwestern coast of Australia.” Fung writes: “Bold linear stripes converge into a spiral pattern, leading the visitor to the center of the space where an embedded cistern of lights simulating an image of trickling water that appears to be alive and weeping, suggesting a pathway into the Indian Ocean.” The stage-like setting will be used as a backdrop for performances and other public events.
Elizabeth Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, told The New York Times: “One of the glaring gaps here is really the arts and culture scene. One of the other gaps is the lack of economic development in some of these empty, huge, blighted lots.” Art, then can serve, as a “leading-edge perception driver” and perhaps help change create new opportunities for this part of town and the city as a whole.
Fung thinks that art sends out a “positive message,” particularly in the very tough times after the storm and could even help heal the city. He’s made a point of involving year-round residents in actually constructing the works. Local painting, plumbing, and carpeting unions have donated time to build the works, while local performers will be asked to stage new theatrical and other live performances. Fung said, post-storm: “One of the most heartening things is all the e-mails I have been getting from locals asking, ‘How is the art project?’ ”
Image credits: (1) Rendering / Balmori Associates, (2) Artlantic: wonder / Peter Tobia, (3) Artlantic: wonder / Layman Lee (4) Artlantic: wonder / Layman Lee