At Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, new workshops being offered this summer are blending art, environmental exploration and mindfulness for a truly unique experience of the park, for newcomers and returning guests alike.
Beginning at 11 a.m. on select Saturdays, Field Guide workshops offer lessons in planting and gardening, drawing, pickling, medicinal plants, storytelling and more. The experimental workshops are designed to incorporate the senses and explore mindfulness techniques, combining artmaking with natural materials.
“We are working in a space that is a sculpture park and it should be seen and touched and heard and smelled,” said Jeannette Rodriguez Pineda, a mixed media artist and educator at the park. “That adds to our experience of the world and our memory of the space,” she said.
The programming, which launched in May, will run through September and is free and open to all ages.
“Here at Socrates, there’s this really unique opportunity to connect culture and encounters with the natural world,” said Douglas Paulson, director of education at the park. Many of the artworks that are exhibited there are created on-site in their outdoor studio space. Visitors can witness the art-making process and also participate in a variety of educational programming.
Last Saturday, attendees gathered for a workshop called “The Shape of Wind,” which combined listening, drawing and collaborative sound-making. It began with three minutes of listening to the sounds around them with their eyes closed. Birds chirped, dogs barked, cars honked, leaves rustled, children played and ferries passed on the East River, which borders the park. Then, with eyes still closed, they spent 12 minutes interpreting those sounds into shapes with different colored markers on big sheets of paper in front of them. After, two groups were formed and participants shared their drawings and rehearsed re-creating the sounds out loud. The result was recorded to create audio tapes that emulated the harmony of the park and everyone listened to the final product together.
Caroline Alarcon and her friend Maria Vargas attended the workshop, their first time taking one at the park. “We didn’t know what to expect and we absolutely loved it,” said Alarcon.
“I’m a little bit shy and I think my friend is shy too. So, it took us out of our comfort zone,” she said. Now, she looks forward to attending a Field Guide workshop again, like the one about making bioplastics into wearable art and clothing set for Aug. 21.
“A number of our workshops are based on a question,” said artist and teacher Rodriguez Pineda. “We’re not really thinking about an answer, but even more questions and what we are left with at the end in terms of the way we are experiencing our lives and experiencing public space.”
At the end of the workshop series, a book will be produced titled “Field Guide, A Community-made Book of Knowledge,” made up of drawings, recipes and more, all collected from the workshops, said Douglas Paulson. “Together we’re building this community knowledge,” he said. “It will help to teach people what they’re seeing around them when we’re not here.” The audio recordings will also be accessible for those interested, too.
Preregistration is required for the workshops and class size is limited to 20 participants for social distancing.
Currently on exhibit at the park are Guadalupe Maravilla’s “Planeta Abuelx” and the “Eternal Flame” monument by Paul Ramirez Jonas, which features communal BBQ grills. The park also offers Saturday yoga, sunset meditation, kids’ dance sessions and healing sound baths that utilize the gongs attached to Maravilla’s sculpture. For more information, visit socratessculpturepark.org.