Explore Brooklyn's Waterfront Art Scene This Spring

6 Must-See Performances and Art Exhibits

Fly By Night at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
••• Fly By Night at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Tod Seelie/Creative Time

It’s no secret that Brooklyn has an incredible and edgy art scene. From a world-class art museum in Prospect Heights to epic street art in Bushwick, the art world in Brooklyn satiates all art lovers. However, this spring, Brooklyn is home to six incredible art exhibits and performances that are truly unique and shouldn’t be missed. All of them are located along the historic waterfront, the once industrial sections of Brooklyn are now home to numerous artistic creations.

The Brooklyn waterfront has undergone a rebirth in the last few decades and these monumental art events are putting Brooklyn's art world on the map. 

Create your spring itinerary around these six happenings and you won’t be disappointed. From performance art to curated shows led by pioneers in the Brooklyn art world, there is much to see in Brooklyn.

Fly By Night 

For years, carrier pigeons were apart of NYC life and people trained pigeons. In fact, Brooklyn was home to a Homing Pigeon Clubs and many people raced pigeons (just think of the film On the Waterfront). Now artist Duke Riley pays tribute to these ubiquitous urban birds, incorporating them into a large-scale performance art project, taking place weekends (Friday through Sunday at 7 pm) until June 7th at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Riley outfits the birds with LED lights, and using whistles, he orchestrates the flock of two thousand to fly over the river from their coops aboard a historic decommissioned Navy vessel.

The show runs at dusk and is free, but tickets are sold out. You can put your name on the wait list or become a member of Creative Time to ensure a bleacher seat. However, if you walk by the Brooklyn Navy Yard around 7 pm, you might catch a glimpse of the show, which takes places on Sands and Navy Streets.

Or we can cross our fingers and hope the rave reviews from the New York Times extend the performance. If that doesn’t work, you can see the show here. 

Clear Night at Pioneer Works

On May 20th, Clear Night by Kim Brandt, debuts at Pioneer Works, located on the waterfront in Red Hook. The groundbreaking show “is a series of related but distinct performances in which dancers deploy a variety of movement systems to proliferate tones, surfaces, and landscapes.” The performance questions how gravity, architecture, and duration pressure motion’s drive toward inertia.” Running until the 27th, Clear Night takes place in the main gallery and features a different work for an eight-day run, “with pieces ranging from fifteen minutes to several hours and featuring anywhere from one to thirty-five performers.” There is a ten dollar suggested donation for the performance. 

Port Cities at Waterfront Barge

Simply hopping aboard the Waterfront Barge can be considered an artistic outing. However, if you'd like to see the barge as a backdrop for an incredible theatrical production, you should get tickets for Port Cities. The show runs until May 15th, and is "a theatrical journey from the Financial District to Red Hook." The performance starts at Pier 11 in the Financial District, where you "ferry across the harbor accompanied by an original soundscape, dock in Red Hook’s working port and board the Waterfront Barge Museum for a multimedia performance." If you can't make this show, don't worry, the Waterfront Barge Museum has a full calendar of theatrical productions this summer including Salome on the Rocks, an adaption of an Oscar Wilde play and an artistic piece from artist Stephanie Corne.

Industry City's Open Studios

Located on the waterfront in Sunset Park, Industry City has undergone a historic transformation in the last few years. In addition to housing the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg in the winter months, Industry City is also home to a distillery, a rooftop film series, a prime foodie haven food court, and many young companies and artists. It's also a noted studio space for numerous incredible Brooklyn Artists. Get an insider tour of this vibrant studio space on Saturday, May 14th and Sunday, May 15th from 10am-6pm. Meet the artists, makers, and manufacturers at Industry City, and see why this historic waterfront industrial space is an inspiration for numerous Brooklyn artists as you get to see their private workspace.

Wide Open 7 at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Council  

Before Banksy tagged Red Hook and trendy restaurants started popping up on Van Brunt Street, the area's main drag, there was the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition.

This artist-run gallery was founded in 1978 to "help artists—established and emerging—make their work available to the public." Visit Wide Open 7 at their historic pier gallery in Red Hook for Wide Open 7, "a national juried show selected by Metropolitan Museum assistant curator, Beth Saunders with 120 pieces in all media, chosen from over 1900 submissions."  The show is open weekends 1-6PM and runs through June 12. This would be a great event to pair with Clear Night at Pioneer Works. Before you head to Pioneer Works, enjoy a waterside lunch at neighboring Fairway. Or hop aboard the Waterfront Barge Museum.

Swale 

Swale, “a collaborative floating food project” housed on an eighty-foot platform, plans to dock at Brooklyn Bridge Park this June. Check out their schedule, so you can climb aboard this floating forest that “provides free healthy food at the intersection of public art and service.” The lush forest will be a welcome addition to the Brooklyn waterfront, filled with Asian Persimmon, North Red trees, and other plant life, Swale is an artistic piece that explores the theme of food in our society.  The project is both an inventive conceptual art piece and a place to inspire people about the future of food and our environment.