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Microtopia - a sculpture city built in collaboration with kids

Built in collaboration with kids and community artists, Microtopia is a durable modular miniature city and a skateboard park to play in and build on. Graffiti mini-murals and other art are created on the buildings; blocks and paint are available to visitors to add to the city.

Running from May 27 through September 25, 2011 on beautiful Governors Island as part of the FIGMENT NYC 2011 festival, Microtopia will also host workshops with educators, graffiti (and other) artists, environmentalists and others. Microtopia emphasizes the value of play, equal opportunity, and the sense of belonging to and caring for the city.

Deinstallation Weekend

September 23-25, 2011

Piece by piece as the season was winding down, our visitors helped us dismantle the Microtopia installation by taking the smaller structures and creations home with them. And we were overjoyed that in the midst of our deinstall, we were able to deliver several structures to pemanently reside at the Lorge school, where Ilyse Kazar had conducted her Unlikely Voters series of workshops, and will continue the relationship with that wonderful school.

Other teachers and return visitors helped take parts of Microtopia off our hands and at the end of our deinstall, Earth Matter (a project that seeks to reduce the organic waste misdirected into the garbage stream by encouraging composting) welcomed our Brooklyn Bridge to keep their chickens company!

Microtopia 2011 on Governor's Island might have vanished, but we are making our plans for continuing the project. There are several groups that we might seek to collaborate with on more nomadic forms of Microtopia, or who might feature us and the various cottage industries we became connected to in a future venue. So, we have decided to continue with new incarnations of the project! Timothy Bellavia's We Are All the Same Inside will be collaborationg with us in March, and we will be in talks with Pop Up Adventure Play in the coming months... stay tuned!

Some images of our deinstallation process:

Edgies Art show and picnic

Marty Mar, Elijah Davila, and Desir Gala art show and picnic

Saturday, September 17 · 12:00pm - 3:00pm

As a culminating event with the Educational Alliance Graffiti art group we honored Martin Medina's art (and life) mentoring of teenagers in the Lower East Side by featuring a large body of his work along with several of Elijah "Eli" Davila's efforts. (A painting by Desir Gala, another student of Marty's, has been installed at Microtopia all summer.) Eli and his brother Jojo collaborated on a piece, and have plans for some future t-shirt productions. (We'll definitely stay on top of that!)

In the future, Microtopia will be searching for a venue to feature all the different artwork and the cottage industries that we were associated with throughout the summer.

We'd feel nostalgic about presenting this slideshow of our final event this season, except that we already have so many ideas for sustaining Microtopia as a continuing project. So be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch!

Wonder Women

August 21 and September 4

In August and September, "Microtopia as a community platform" continued to broaden and strengthen. In addition to fostering graffiti art, educational programs, and ad-hoc play, Microtopia has now hosted the first two sessions of WONDER WOMEN, a newly-launched women's leadership and mutual support group founded and led by Lorinda Moore. At Microtopia, Wonder Women met and shared their stories, project hopes and ideas, read their poetry and exhibited paintings, while their children played and created in Microtopia. The occasional male friend or child attended, too. And adults could not resist taking part in the continual creation of Microtopia, adding a few new structures. Click "Read more" for the full story and slideshow!

CERN Graffiti Workshop

August 6, 2011

CERN  came to Tuff City in the midst of a big project he is working on to paint a mural, get the Edgie crew painting alongside him, and inspire them with his perspective on what he views as a growing legal mural movement that he feels is necessary "in a real democracy." This was the third workshop with graffiti masters in our Graffiti Art for Teens program. Click here to see some shots from this event.

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Unlikely Voters Workshops

July-August 2011

As the summer has progressed, Microtopia has become as much a platform for launching community-based programs as it is an interactive graffiti and sculpture installation.

Activities fostered and hosted by Microtopia really began to branch out after an art teacher from the Lorge School (in the Chelsea neighborhood, nearby in Manhattan) brought grade-school students to Governors Island on a field trip. They stopped at Microtopia and, well, we all got talking. It was clear that the Lorge School might be a perfect fit for the pilot workshops that were being hatched by Unlikely Voters, a brand new grassroots program for civic education. (Read more about the Unlikely Voters concept here, and you can also visit their baby Web site and sign up to receive occasional emails.) The collaboration between Microtopia, Unlikely Voters and the Lorge School faculty and students was so natural, and the planning and execution of the workshops unfolded so organically! Click to read more and see the slideshow!

Cortes Graffiti Art and Digital Arts Workshop

Cortes with Edgies 0451_0.jpgOn Saturday, July 23, artist Christian Cortes was scheduled to paint a live mural in the courtyard of Tuff City Styles Lower East Side location as the format for a workshop given to the teens who attend Marty Medina's graffiti art class at the Educational Alliance Boys and Girls Club (the "Edgies"). BUT IT WAS TOO HOT to do much of anything outside that day! Funny how unexpected changes sometimes work out for the best, though -- the workshop was instead staged in the computer lab at Educational Alliance, where Cortes was able to point the teens to examples of his work on the Web.

CORTES talked to the Edgies about the progression of his graffiti art career into album covers, commercial graphic art commissions, and multimedia digital arts. He shared many great tips for expanding your art into new channels ... but also emphasized the importance of continuing to practice one's own personal art.

Click here to see the slideshow!

Zimad graffiti workshop

July 2, 2011

ZIMAD (a.k.a. Luis Lamboy), a graffiti master who hails from the South Bronx, came to Tuff City Styles to talk to young artists Elijah Davila ("Eli")  and Yves-Desir Gala ("Desire") from the Educational Alliance's Boys and Girls Club (where they take a graffiti art class with Marty Medina). ZIMAD taught them some of his techniques while he painted the current mural for Microtopia. During the session, he spoke of the hundreds of commissions he has had over the years -- among them bodegas, pizza shops and even recently a church, where the owners want a vibrant colorful production on the outside of their business to attract customers and to deter random tagging. ZIMAD explained that, on the street, graffiti "code" holds that the greater the aesthetic value of a mural to people in the neighborhood, the more the work is respected and maintained. He also cited the importance of being "a live and let live" kind of personality in order to have one's work remain respected in this community setting,furthering the notion that graffiti murals can function harmoniously in a neighborhood context.

Enjoy this slideshow of this really special Microtopia "satellite" event! And, thanks ZIMAD, thanks ELI and DESIRE, and thanks to FIL at Tuff City for hosting us!!

 

 

Microtopia Photo Wall

The Microtopia 3-D photo wall is up! It's a great way to quickly view lots of images, ordered from most recent to oldest to give you a sens of the evolution of our mini-city. Just click on this image to go to the  Photo Wall page.

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FIGMENT NYC 2011 Weekend

June 10-12, 2011

FIGMENT weekend, in spite of grey skies and intermittent rain, was a great success. Thousands of visitors came to Governors Island to enjoy the many installations and performances around the island.

Microtopia had hundreds of visitors pass through. Many "kids of all ages", from those barely old enough to walk to seriously talented adult artists, painted and built in our city.

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