Whitney Block Party
May 15, 2015

A crowd stands in front of a stage on a sunny day

Booths and crowds at the Whitney Block Party, May 2015. Photograph by Filip Wolak

On Saturday, May 2, the Whitney hosted a free block party in front of the Museum on Gansevoort Street. Created in the spirit of a neighborhood festival, the Whitney Block Party welcomed visitors of all ages with art and performance. Throughout the day, booths designed by a diverse group of contemporary artists and community organizations featured hands-on activities and participatory events including karaoke, map making, and ballroom dancing; while acts on the main stage included dance, music, and poetry. The whole event embodied the Museum’s multidisciplinary and inclusive approach to contemporary art. 

Three adults and a child pose in front of papers pinned to a wall.

Block Party participants at Nari Ward’s booth, May 2015. Photograph by Filip Wolak

The Block Party was truly a collaborative effort that brought staff across the institution together to produce this multi-disciplinary event. Here Education staff share some of their favorite moments.

Emily Arensman, Coordinator of Public Programs, pointed out that although the Museum had openings and previews during the two weeks prior to the Block Party, the street event was welcoming and inclusive to a wider public audience. Arensman noted: “There was something for everyone—neighbors, casual passersby, artists who came by to see their friends—from artist Nari Ward inviting participants to write recipes for smiles in exchange for “canned smiles” to the Meatpacking District Improvement Association (MPIA) who offered walking tours with an expert guide for small groups to explore the Meatpacking District and learn about the history, architecture, and spirit of the neighborhood.”

Teens perform on a stage.

Teens from The Door – A Center for Alternatives perform, May 2015. Photograph by Filip Wolak

Danielle Linzer, Director of Access and Community Programs commented that it was wonderful to see local friends and neighbors who stopped by the Community booth throughout the day, including colleagues from MPIA, the High Line, the LGBT Community Center, Westbeth, Hudson Guild, PS 33, and The Door — A Center for Alternatives. A highlight of the day for Linzer was a performance by youth from The Door — an energetic and moving combination of song, step, and dance that brought the house down. Here are a few more highlights:

Outlooking a crowd from the view of the stage at night

Block Party participants enjoy the music, May 2015. Photograph by Filip Wolak

Megan Heuer, Director of Public Programs and Public Engagement, noted that people from the neighborhood and all over the city who came to the Block Party really felt part of the Whitney for the entire day. The whole community was involved and engaged in making art—inside and outside the Museum. Whether it was singing a song or making a model to add to a New York City map, it all counted. Summing up the day, Arensman overheard near one booth: "The Whitney has always welcomed the wild and wonderful, but this sets a whole new bar."

Artist Lize Mogel invited Block Party participants to collectively build a scale model of New York City. Watch a time-lapse video that documents the construction of the crowd-sourced city.

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Dina Helal, Manager of Education Resources

  • A group of people looks at art inside a mobile art installation.

    Founded by artist Jared Madere, Bed-Stuy Love Affair is a gallery that presents exhibitions by emerging artists. Initially hosted in Madere’s Brooklyn apartment, the gallery has recently become a mobile exhibition space housed in a 1978 RV. For the Block Party, Madere and artist Ben Schumacher created an installation that served as a literal gate to welcome visitors to the event as well as an environment in which the musician Gobby performed.

  • Two women wear white coats in front of a photo of a meatpacking plant.

    JT Jobbagy, Inc. is a meat-packing company in the Gansevoort Market Meat Center. John and Tom Jobbagy are third generation meatpackers. Their grandfather, Thomas, opened the Pacific Hotel Supply Company in 1925, and their father, Edward, ran that company into the 1970s. JT Jobbagy, Inc. sells meat to high-end restaurants and retail stores in the New York area. At the Block Party, Jobbagy meatpackers were on hand to answer questions about the history of the Meatpacking District as well as the ins and outs of their trade. Visitors could don the white coats that meatpackers wear and pose for their photograph against a backdrop of Jobbagy’s meat locker.

  • Looking down on people making art at tables.

    Interdisciplinary artist Lize Mogel creates “counter-cartography”—maps that communicate new ideas about social and political issues. Mogel invited Block Party participants to collectively build a scale model of New York City. Visitors created small sculptures of places that are important to them and installed them on a table-sized city map.

  • Four people dressed in costume hold up records behind the DJ booth.

    My Barbarian is a collective project by the artists Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade. They combine theater, visual art, and experimental performance to “playfully reenact serious artistic, political, social and historical situations.” The group invited visitors to a Classical Music Dance Party with a twist.

  • Two kids dance together as two men in tuxedos and mask perform dance moves behind them.

    My Barbarian merged classical music with a high energy club event to create a new interactive dance experience.

  • A Native American dancer performs in costume in front of a DJ booth.

    In the early evening, A Tribe Called Red (a Toronto-based Producer/DJ crew consisting of DJ NDN, Bear Witness, and 2oolman) concluded the Block Party with their unique sound that draws upon their First Nation heritage, mixing traditional pow wow vocals and drumming with contemporary electronic music.