By Phil Corso
The view for those strolling along Rockaway Beach just became a bit more rounded, thanks to a new cultural center established overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
City officials worked with the Museum of Modern Art to install the temporary VW Dome 2 venue to attract more people — and eyeballs — to an area that was left devastated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The dome will be home to various events from lectures to art exhibitions throughout the spring, and kicked off its stay with a musical performance from Rockaway Beach resident Patti Smith.
Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS 1, said the new space was important for the storm-battered Rockaways to help the area move beyond Sandy by showcasing its artistic community.
“It is a new beginning and we are all helping each other,” said Biesenbach, who also lives in the area. “It is a beautiful reason to be here.”
MoMA PS1 Board Chairwoman Agnes Gund told the crowd of supporters to keep artistic expression at the forefront of the recovery efforts for a more sustainable and beautiful future.
“We don’t pay enough attention to the arts,” Gund said. “What we have here is a wonderful environment with a great view that will bring people together. It’s important we let everyone know there is a place where art can be enjoyed.”
The VW Dome 2 got its name from Volkswagen, which donated the material making up the space’s white exterior shell. On one side, the dome opens up to allow for a scenic view of the beach and Atlantic Ocean.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) toured the new community space with optimism as he celebrated the new initiative as a means to force people to confront the Rockaways’ storm damage firsthand. He said the dome had potential to bring more people to the peninsula and hopefully spur a more sustainable recovery effort post-Sandy.
The councilman joined with Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens commissioner of the city Parks Department, to celebrate the dome’s opening as a collaborative effort between city agencies and the community.
“This is not about saying the job is done in the Rockaways,” Van Bramer said. “This is a cultural celebration used to remind people that the work is not finished and there is still so much to be done.”
Rockaway resident Timothy Curtin walked the few blocks from his home to the new cultural center and immediately got on the phone to invite friends and family to join him. Curtin said the dome was a breath of fresh air for a community that has been tested heavily over the last five months since the storm.
“It is so great for us to have something like this available after all this,” Curtin said. “I love seeing people coming together for the Rockaways. It’s important.”
The dome already has a packed agenda of cultural and artistic events over the coming months, including a screening of an environmental documentary on nearby Jamaica Bay scheduled for May 19.
“Culture and art are essential to the recovery of the Rockaways and we have a stake in the ground,” Van Bramer said. “We are invested in this community.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.