Worthy Project Fumbled

Mystery Solved: Why More Arts Wanted RIOC Public Purpose Funds

Updated 48 weeks ago David Stone
Mystery Solved: Why More Arts Wanted RIOC Public Purpose Funds

RIOC, never more communication stunted, vaulted the story, a fumble nearly as alarming as More Art’s unexpected arrival on the list of approved Public Purpose Fund applicants. That was followed by their abrupt, unexplained departure on the cusp of presentations. We looked further. RIOC’s secrecy, it seems, was a face saving gesture.


More Arts, Inc., In and Out with Public Purpose Funds

The story is simple.

“RIOC let us know that there were eligibility issues around funding for temporary public art installations,” said Micaela Martegani Executive Director for More Arts. “This is the reason why we withdrew our application.”

She added, “We would have loved to work on Roosevelt Island.”

So, after putting the innovative, socially conscious group through the time and effort of applying and being approved, RIOC yanked their chain at the last minute.

Because RIOC did not respond to our request for information, we don’t know if public uproar prompted them or if someone just got up on the right side of the bed that day.

What we do know now is that what appears to be a worthwhile initiative got its bubble burst. The result is, if left alone, everyone loses.

What More Arts Wanted To Do

“Inspired by Roosevelt Island's rich significance in the history of medicine and health,” their proposal read, “the installation will seek to contextualize the individual experiences of breathing and breathlessness within larger issues of ecological duress, air quality, public green space, and environmental stewardship.”

Hobble a bit by its formal language, the project reads like something that instantly addresses longstanding concerns of Roosevelt Islanders.

The installation itself would be powered by “…the experiential qualities of contemporary sound art to approach issues of breathing and breathlessness, both through the personal experiences of New Yorkers living with asthma and pulmonary disease, and within a broader context of environmental justice and communities of care.”

A Breathing Biome

An action plan expands on features that hit local hot buttons on several points.

“In a series of community workshops, the artist (Sari Carel) will collaborate with participants who suffer from asthma or lung impairment, recording their breathing patterns to create an evocation, multi-layered sound art installation. 

“Visitors coming to hear and view the sound installation within public sites across Roosevelt Island will explore this multi-channel sound experience as it melds with the vernacular sounds and noises of daily life in NYC. 

“We will invite visitors to contemplate how urban green spaces are essential in mitigating air pollution and noise, and in enriching the physical, mental, and sensory lives of NYC residents. 

“More Art will develop a series of public workshops, including lectures and panels that use the installation site itself as a physical and mental framework for expanding on themes of healthy and impaired breathing in the context of natural and ecological issues, and to expand an awareness and appreciation of the value of urban green space. 

“Lectures and workshops will be run by artists as well as other practitioners and academics, and will be programmed throughout the installation’s timeframe.” 

Thinking about collaboration with RIVAA, I asked Martegani if More Arts could work with local artists.

“The project involves collaborations with local residents,” she answered.

And the price is not cheap, $10-15 thousand, given the low ceiling under which RIOC caps total grant packages, but Martegani adds that it “…could be divided in different parts, and reconfigured, if given a smaller budget.”

That flexibility may make some version of a project that looks to benefit Roosevelt Island — and others — in multiple ways, doable, if funding sources can be found.

“Through this exploration of breathing, the project will investigate the multiple meanings and values of urban spaces,” and bring visitors here as well as broader media attention.

It deserves another look through a Roosevelt Island community aware lens.

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