‘Experiences aren't free’• Emily Garfield

nyc ferry web.jpg



New Yorkers love to complain about transit. The packed subway cars, the late subway cars, the rising expense, the need to give yourself an hour to get anywhere… It’s our duty and privilege, like children who can be picky about what they eat, to complain even as NYC has the largest transit system in the world with nearly 6 million people riding it every single day. Still, it’s a novel idea for most New Yorkers to think of utilizing the growing NYC Ferry system as their main commute. NYC Ferry system, run by Hornblower has 6 lines to 4 boroughs (the Staten Island Ferry is separate). You can get to the Rockaways from Lower Manhattan in under an hour at the same cost as the subway, with concessions onboard, a view of the water and a seat. Trying doing that on the A train.

Emily Garfield is an artist who specializes in imaginary maps through watercolor and ink. We decided to put her on the NYC Ferries for the day, with an ambitious itinerary, to see what would happen being in locomotion along the constructed coastlines for her cartographic brain. It turns out it was quite an adventure, much to do with the logistical rigmarole of transfers and getting on and off. Here are some of her reflections:


This day was entirely about chains of experiences.

ferry life • emily garfield

ferry life • emily garfield

When I got back on the Astoria ferry I made my way back to the crewman who’d just told me off for not understanding anything about transfers and terminal stops, and explained that really I wouldn’t have minded being kicked off “because today is all about having experiences”. His friend, sitting with him in their brief downtime by the concessions stand, laughed that “experiences aren’t free, though”, so I reminded them “except for the Staten Island Ferry!”

Emotion map of the journey • Emily Garfield

Emotion map of the journey • Emily Garfield

After laughing with me, he said “if you’re an artist, can you draw me a globe tattoo?” I drew the design, which involved copying by sight some hastily-pulled-up globe imagery—  which gave me enough practice copying designs that I decided to copy the ferry-provided route map— which developed into a drawing that was then complimented by a little girl at the Dumbo pier who was alone after being told off by her overwhelmed tourist dad— and also noticed by the survey-taker on the next ferry, who’d probably never read about a ferry day quite like mine. 

See more of Emily Garfield’s work HERE.

Emily Garfield ferry schedule.jpg

Afterthoughts: When Emily Garfield applied to be a 360 resident, with her work “drawing imaginary maps using mental “rules” informed by subconscious applications of geographic experience as well as the connections between maps and biological systems,” we knew we wanted something with enough locomotion and manmade/natural geometric skyline to inspire her hand. So we took a risk and put her on the NYC Ferry system, traipsing all over NYC for the 360 minutes.

The trip gave a lot in terms of experiences but not as much time for the creating, especially in the imaginary realm. Like many parts of this program, by trying non-traditional residency spaces, you get non-traditional results. Emily was the perfect resident to flow with current and the residency introduced us to a whole other way of transit in NYC- we just might not ask anyone else to be on one (or 5) in 6 hours.