The Accidentally Kid-Friendly Arts Fest


Plushie Fight!

When FIGMENT first appeared on Governors Island in 2007, its organizers didn’t actively market the arts festival to kids, or even think of it as a family event. Then 2,600 people arrived, many with their small children in tow. “We watched as the kids led the parents around,” said Executive Producer David Koren, who now has a toddler girl of his own. Five years later the kid appeal is a given–particularly in activities like sopping wet stuffed animal fights and the 375-square-foot Treehouse–but Koren hasn’t changed the guiding principles of FIGMENT, which returns to the island this weekend.

“FIGMENT isn’t for kids, and it isn’t for adults,” said Koren. “It’s for humans.” Kids just know how to play–which is what FIGMENT’s participatory exhibits encourage–while the grownups need to be coaxed a bit.

That said, there are installations and activities that definitely cater to the chitlins. Kostume Kult, a collective that regularly appears on the Burning Man, Halloween and Mermaid Parade circuit, will be handing out free costumes to kids from its ever-growing stash. Aqua Attack–which Koren’s daughter especially liked last year–is back with its “Super Villain” and “Super Hero” battle, fought by tossing super soaked plush toys between two kiddie pools. And Green Apple Kids has assembled raffia, buttons, leaves and other found objects for kids to weave their wishes into a Magical Meshy Mural.

photo by Tes Rivera

Then there’s FIGMENT’s interative sculpture garden and mini-golf, the two special exhibits that stay open throughout the summer, and have serious crossover appeal for the young and old. One very popular installation–a reclaimed wood Treehouse that debuted last year (after jumping through Building’s Department permitting hoops)–is back this summer with plenty of room for adults.

To get there, catch a free ferry from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park or take the East River Ferry. You can buy food on the island from one of the vendors, and even get cash out from one of two ATMs, but it’ll be easier to bring a picnic lunch and water and any toys you like. (There’s a handy list of suggestions here.) Or, if you’re up for a 20-minute walk or can put the kids on bikes (or ride with them), there’s now Little Eva’s at the southwestern end of the island, run by two parents who opened their beer garden and grill with families in mind.

FIGMENT runs this Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, 10am to 6pm. Details and directions here. 

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