Arts Gowanus and the Old Stone House & Washington Park (OSH) are proud to present Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal, a multi-site exhibition opening April 9th and 10th that will feature over 200 artists considering what a “Utopia” (or ideal place) would look like for the communities of the neighborhoods bordering the Gowanus Canal.

Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal consists of an indoor exhibition at The Old Stone House (OSH) and two public outdoor art exhibitions of artwork printed on banners hung on the fences surrounding J.J. Byrne Playground and Coffey Park.

Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal consists of an indoor exhibition at The Old Stone House (OSH) and two public outdoor art exhibitions of artwork printed on banners hung on the fences surrounding J.J. Byrne Playground and Coffey Park. ©Mark D Phillips
Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal consists of an indoor exhibition at The Old Stone House (OSH) and two public outdoor art exhibitions of artwork printed on banners hung on the fences surrounding J.J. Byrne Playground and Coffey Park. ©Mark D Phillips

This project is part of the ongoing Brooklyn Utopias exhibition series, developed by OSH Contemporary Curator Katherine Gressel, that highlights the importance of artists and communities in helping shape the future of a changing Brooklyn. Some artists in Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal celebrate iconic or beloved aspects of the neighborhoods’ past or present that already feel “utopian” and the importance of their preservation. Others comment on existing plans for the area during a time of rapid redevelopment and rezoning. With climate crises, gentrification, financial instability and an ongoing pandemic hitting these communities especially hard, many artists present their own visions for a greener, healthier and more equitable Gowanus. Others explore a broader idea of urban utopia, with both local and global implications.

Select outdoor banners highlight local people and organizations that are actively working towards a better Brooklyn. Some feature the work of students created through workshops with youth organizations.

The Brooklyn Utopias series was first conceived in 2009 by OSH Contemporary Curator Katherine Gressel as a way for artists to respond to Brooklyn’s resurging popularity in the 21st Century and often competing and controversial rebuilding and rebranding efforts. It was also inspired by Brooklyn’s history as an enclave for artists, social reformers, immigrants, environmentalists and others drawn to its iconic neighborhoods.

The Old Stone House (OSH) is a reconstructed Dutch colonial farmhouse located in Park Slope’s Washington Park/J.J. Byrne Playground. The playground and house restoration were first developed by Robert Moses in the 1930s, but the land surrounding the house made history long before then as the site of the 1776 Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn, and as a 19th Century Brooklyn Dodgers practice field. OSH is at the crossroads of ancient Lenape paths, adjacent to the historic town of Marechkawick, and has recently updated its permanent exhibition with information about the area’s native inhabitants, also making this a focus of our contemporary art programming. Today, OSH hosts history and environmental education programs as well as cultural and family events. Artists may contact OSH as a resource on the history of the Gowanus Canal and its connection to these historic events.

Opened in 1901 and bound by Verona, King, Dwight, and Richards Streets, Coffey Park is named for Michael J. Coffey (1839-1907), the former state senator, alderman, and district leader representing Red Hook. Renovated in 1999, Coffey Park features a playground with swings, benches, game tables, picnic tables, basketball courts, handball courts, and a baseball diamond.

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