PS1 COURTYARD: an experiment in creative ecologies

View of MoMA PS1 Courtyard. Photo: Kris Graves

PS1 COURTYARD: an experiment in creative ecologies reimagines the uses of and access to PS1’s outdoor Courtyard, which is the interstitial space between the institution, its neighborhood, and the community. Featuring a series of new initiatives, including a participatory installation by artist Rashid Johnson, a series of Thought Collectives to test out creative and forward-thinking propositions for the use of public space, and a commissioning program to reanimate the Courtyard’s concrete walls, the program recasts one of the few plots of open land in Long Island City—the fastest growing residential neighborhood in the US and a site of rapid gentrification—as a place for experimentation and engagement with urban ecologies.

In April of 2022, jackie sumell and The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) activate the side courtyard of PS1 with Growing Abolition, a new project unfolding around a custom-designed greenhouse. The greenhouse is scaled to the footprint of a solitary confinement cell from a maximum-security prison. Transforming a space of confinement into one of possibility, the greenhouse offers an occasion for both growing and learning. Each plant, grown by sumell and the girls, carries history and politics—symbolisms, medicinal uses, and cultural legacies—that teach us about the persistence of radical ecology. Through a series of workshops in the spring and summer, sumell and the LESGC interns will create seed packets and seedlings, some of which will be transferred and donated to neighboring gardens in Queensbridge Houses and other local sites. The project will culminate in an installation designed by the LESGC girls in PS1’s Homeroom in September 2022.

Later in 2022, the Courtyard walls will be activated by After the Fire, a participatory mural project led by artists Nanibah Chacon, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Layqa Nuna Yawar. The project brings an experimental, participatory, and collaborative approach to the process of mural-making, beginning with a series of workshops with three local Queens community groups: Transform America, Make the Road, and members of the Shinnecock, Unkechaug, and Matinecock Nations.

Past Courtyard Activations

Niki de Saint Phalle’s La femme et L’oiseau fontaine (1967) inaugurated the 2021 season in the PS1 Courtyard, part of a survey of the Saint Phalle’s work, Structures for Life. Taking the form of a woman lightly balanced atop a bird, the fountain was an early example of Saint Phalle’s iconic Nana sculptures—joyful monuments to female power—as well as her growing interest in making art for a world beyond the confines of the gallery setting.

Punctuating the walls surrounding Saint Phalle’s fountain, The Stories of the Past Rejoice through Children’s Skies (2021) was a new site-specific installation by Raúl de Nieves (Mexican, b. 1983) resembling stained glass windows, which offered a chapel-like space of reflection. Influenced by Mexican craft traditions, de Nieves was also impacted by seeing Saint Phalle’s public sculptures as a child growing up in San Diego, and his works echoed her appeal to fantasy, mysticism, and material exuberance to explore the complexities of life.

PS1 COURTYARD: an experiment in creative ecologies is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Major support is provided by Allianz, MoMA's partner for design and innovation.

Generous funding is provided by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Jeffrey and Michèle Klein, and MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.

Support for Rashid Johnson: Stage is provided by the Junior Associates of the Museum of Modern Art.

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