If given a chance to get out and speak to people somewhat randomly on the street, I highly recommend it.
I don’t mean going out and soliciting funds or votes or anything like that, but just having the conversation with people about something which you can share. It is highly unlikely that if it weren’t for this project, I would ever meet the people I have met. We might ride on the same train, or be in line somewhere, or shop at the same store, without ever talking - simply because we would have no reason to speak. By putting myself out in public and doing something which raises people’s curiosity, I have the chance to have conversations with people. Sometimes it is a passing curiosity that they have and the engagement is quite short, but more often than not I am able to have a relaxed and engaged conversation with people. I tell them what I am doing, they tell me about their own experiences - whether it is loosing flood insurance on their home, cleaning up bags and bags of plastic washed up on the shore, experiencing severe weather themselves or by way of family members. It is an entirely different experience from merely informing people about climate change. It is a chance to connect on a very personal level, and maybe (just maybe) have a greater impact because of that. I treasure every experience, and have been able to play the role of storyteller, passing on one story that I heard to another person with whom I speak, thereby sharing all of our experiences.
Yesterday I installed the beacons in Calvert Vaux/Dreier Offerman Park, which is (as many are in NY) a park built on landfill. It is quite a large stretch of recreational and open space. It is well used by baseball and soccer teams, a group of remote controlled helicopter fliers and lesser used by dog walkers, fishers and recreation seekers. It overlooks an inlet that separates Sea Gate from the mainland. You will notice some of the sea life captured in the beacons, I filled them with the water from the inlet - with the help of some of the people fishing off the rocks. In addition to that assistance, I had the help of another park visitor in the de-installation of the piece - it was a nice community effort!
I was joined for the day by my friend Cecile, who is back in New York (from France) for an installation at FIAF, and to work on a project regarding stories about public places. She has done a number of public works that also allow her to have similar interactions with people that this project has allowed. We were both discussing the unique experience and value that these conversations have in both creating work and connecting art with people.
The project, while there are some pretty big weekends ahead, does seem to be winding down. At this point I am working on putting together some kind of closing party (Oct. 7 - save the date!) as well as organizing a show for the spring (if you know of a good space let me know) and working on the proposals for upcoming projects. If you haven’t had a chance to come out for the day, I highly recommend that you make time in your schedule to join me. It is a fascinating journey.