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Queens Chronicle

Under the dome, down by the sea

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Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:30 am

Even before Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaways were a new frontier for the city’s arts community. The storm, which devastated the peninsula, has not stopped that. If anything, it may have only piqued the interest of that community.

In the days, weeks and even months after the storm, the city’s arts community reached out and helped in the recovery process, including bringing water, food and supplies to the peninsula and helping gut homes and businesses destroyed by the surge.

Now, more than five months after Sandy, the Museum of Modern Art at PS1 has installed a dome, 44 feet in diameter, at the tip of the parking lot at Beach 95th Street and Shore Front Parkway, similar to the dome at MoMA PS 1’s home.

The white dome, sponsored by Volkswagen and designed by David Selig, has a translucent window on its south side, which overlooks the ocean and the remnants of the boardwalk that was destroyed.

The idea for the geodesic was born immediately after Sandy, but Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS 1’s director, said the museum decided to hold off until further in the recovery process.

MoMA held a grand opening for the dome last Friday featuring a performance by singer Patti Smith, who moved to Rockaway not long before Sandy struck. Other attendees included Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, Agnes Gund, chairwoman of MoMA’s Board of Directors, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations.

Residents of Rockaway, still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives after Sandy, also stopped for a look at the dome.

“As we started cleaning and getting some sense of normalcy here, we recognized that this would be a great opportunity,” Lewandowski said. “This has been a collaborative effort between the Parks Department and the city and MoMA.”

Biesenbach, who himself has a home in Rockaway, said the location of the dome was important to him because it is where volunteers coming from MoMA after Sandy would meet to help the recovery effort.

“Every Saturday and Sunday we had buses come from East 53rd Street and we would meet here with the buses,” he said. “Having this as our meeting place, we realized how beautiful it is, just this spot here.”

He sought the help of the Rockaway Arts Alliance and Community Board 14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr, District Manager Jonathan Gaskel to help secure the location and install the dome.

“We’re happy it’s here,” Orr said after Biesenbach thanked her for her help.

For the next six weeks or so, the dome will host various arts events open to people from the surrounding communities. It will serve as a venue for lectures and conversations, rotating art exhibitions, film and video screenings, performances and other community events.

The geodesic houses a sculpture from Terence Koh, which reads “The future is bigger than history.”

“I think that’s a very optimistic and beautiful motto,” Biesenbach said.

He added that Rockaway is a unique place to him, noting that during one of his last times there before the storm, he and Smith walked along the beach. Smith took pictures of the boardwalk but lost her camera.

“A few days later, this community lost much more,” Biesenbach noted.

He said the arts community would not retreat from the neighborhood because of Sandy.

“Here, you feel that you are in a big city, but also in nature,” he remarked.

MoMA PS 1 VW Dome

When: During event times through May 19.

Where: Beach 95th Street and Shore Front Parkway, Rockaway Beach

Tickets: Free, (718)-784-2084

momaps1.org/calendar/vwdome2

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