If you've always wanted to hang out in a library aboard a decommissioned steamship (and really, who hasn't), you are in luck. The Floating Library has arrived in Manhattan. The only bad news? You'll have to power down all of your devices before you decide to walk the plank. Actually, that may be good news.
Creator Beatrice Glow argues the digital-free requirement is part of the magic of the project. "[Composer] John Zorn once told me that the reason why New York has such a vibrant cultural scene is because it's a walking city, and one can run into a friend on the street and end up starting a new collaboration," she says. "That can't happen if we are all staring at our phones. By asking everyone to engage face to face, we learn about dreams, passions, fears, and hopes that have been squared away under power suits, manicured small talk, and meticulously edited résumés."
If you're willing to leave your mobile device at home, you'll find a cornucopia of events and conversation aboard the Lilac Museum Steamship, moored at Pier 25 on the west side of Manhattan. "No stars nor divas, just a library of ideas and showcasing the creative process," Glow says. There will be a carefully curated collection of books, and you're also welcome to BYOB and enjoy the "quiet reading ambience" on the main deck. Plus, more than 70 artists, who Glow describes as having an element of "pirateness" within their work, are collaborating on events and mini exhibits that will take place throughout the library's month-long pop-up.
Photographed by Kelli Dunham.
Glow conceived the idea for the Floating Library more than 18 months ago while she was transitioning out of her job as a fashion designer and building a beauty startup. "I suddenly could flexibly manage my time to dedicate to different dreams (entrepreneurship, freelance design, art, and love)," she says. "I was thirsty for another lifestyle beyond office life and needed a space to nurture this new direction that put the human, and not the robot, as priority."
The Franklin Furnace Fund (self-described as "making the world safe for avant garde art") agreed that the human, not the robot, should be the priority, and gave Glow the money to build her vision. She spent the last year as a "one-person team playing artist, curator, producer, publicist, captain."
This knack for multitasking could explain why Glow has the kind of CV that would make the average New York artist more than a little intimidated: She speaks four languages, was a visiting scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, and had an artistic research residency at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. Oh, and then there's the little matter of her Fulbright year, which she spent in Peru researching the Asian Diaspora.
She has equally ambitious plans for the four weeks during which the public will get to interact with her Floating Library: "I hope this will be like a month-long meditation for visitors to experience distilling and resetting the mind through meaningful encounters," she says. "Perhaps we will celebrate a sparkling moment of collective clarity and conviction for our actions. I hope that people will meet their tribe, build coalitions and momentum for future initiatives that will serve their communities."
The Floating Library is open now through October 3. Times for readings and events vary; check the website for the full schedule. All activities are free; donations accepted.