April 1st.
Prospective Participant Proposal Deadline.

April 10th.
Officially Enlisted Participant Notification.

May 10th – 13th.
Participant Encampment Installation.

May 13th.
Ceremonial Welcome & Overnight Encampment on Governors Island.

May 14th.
The Muster Open to the Public from 12 to 5 PM. Declaration of Causes at 2 PM.

May 15th – 16th.
Break camp.
To download a printable version of the official Muster Press Release please click here.
The Muster is a project of the Public Art Fund program In the Public Realm, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, A State Agency, the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, The Greenwall Foundation, The Silverweed Foundation, The JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and friends of the Public Art Fund.
Public Art Fund is New York’s leading presenter of artists’ projects, new commissions, installations and exhibitions in public spaces. For over 25 years the Public Art Fund has been committed to working with emerging and established artists to produce innovative exhibitions of contemporary art throughout New York City. The Public Art Fund is a non-profit arts organization supported by generous gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations, and with public funds from The New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Governors Island National Monument is currently closed for the season until
regularly scheduled public tours resume in June 2005. However, a portion of the island will be open to the public on May 14th for this special occasion, The Muster.
Access to Governors Island is by ferry only.

Directions to the Governors Island Ferry
The Governors Island Ferry departs from Slip 7 of the Battery Maritime Building located adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry in Lower Manhattan. Click here for a map showing the Governors Island ferry terminal location in Lower Manhattan. The ferry terminal is accessible as follows:

By Subway
1, 9 – South Ferry Station
4, 5 – Bowling Green Station
R, W – Whitehall St. Station

By Bus
M1, M6, M9 and M15

By Car
There is no public parking at the Governors Island ferry building. Click Here for a map of parking garages in Lower Manhattan.
THE OFFICIAL MUSTER BROADSHEET. Click Here to download pdf document.
Please send inquiries in writing to Allison Smith:
356 24th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
United States of America
And in the mighty mustering,
No petty hate intrudes,
No rival discords mar the strength
Of rising multitudes;
The jealousies of faith and clime
Which fester in success,
Give place to sturdy friendships
Based on mutual distress;
For every thinking citizen who draws the sword, knows well
The battle's for Humanity--for Freedom's citadel!
—John Savage, Muster of the North, 1861
There will be no firearms that fire or make smoke at the Muster, nor any
open fires or fireworks. And remember, if it's illegal in front of City
Hall or the First Precinct or the White House, it is going to be illegal at
the Muster.
A Polyphonic Marshalling of Voices.
THE MUSTER IS A PUBLIC ART EVENT IN WHICH ARTIST ALLISON SMITH invokes the aesthetic vernacular of the American Civil War battle reenactment as a stage set for a polyphonic marshalling of voices in her artistic and intellectual communities. The Muster takes form in a creative encampment on the Fort Jay marching grounds of Governors Island, in which fifty enlisted participants fashion uniforms, build campsites, and declare their causes publicly to an audience of spectators. Smith creates a literal platform, complete with banners and flags, to identify the creative minds in her midst and to celebrate what they are fighting for. Smith directs but does not script the event, so that its outcome is only revealed at the Muster itself.
By Allison Smith
WHEN, IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS, it becomes necessary for people to solidify the creative, intellectual, and political bonds that connect ourselves to one another, a respect to the opinions of Everyone requires that we should Declare the Causes which impel us to the confederation. It is to this ultimate end that I wish to address you, that this proclamation be heard by All who find themselves in the midst of War.
This is a Call to Art!
Whereas the issues before us, rapidly assuming a portentous magnitude, deserve formal acknowledgement, I hereby proclaim that the means which conduce to a desirable result are now in Your Hands. Are you ready to devote your time, energies, blood and treasure to the Declaration of your Cause? For the opportunity is now at hand, not only to make your voice be heard but to receive ample reward from your comrades for the services you render in the Field. We need volunteers to march immediately and report for duty to the Muster, an assembly of troops for the purposes of inspection, critique, exercise and display. Engaging in a collective spirit that aims to Proclaim rather than Protest we will form a diverse regiment of our own design.
The place of general rendezvous will be in the heart of New York Harbor on Governors Island, where troops have mustered for over two hundred years. Permits have been secured to assemble on the marching grounds of Fort Jay, a splendid star-shaped fortification, flanked by Civil War cannons and framed by spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the majestic Manhattan skyline. On the 14th day of May 2005, we will gather under the banner of a polyphonic marshalling of voices, which come together to form a multi-layered, collective Cause, a portrait of our community in all its prismatic variety.
Get your uniform ready!
Using the American Civil War battle re-enactment as our aesthetic palette and point of departure, we will participate in the cultural practice of Living History, founded on the belief that historical events gain meaning and relevance when performed live in an open-air, interactive setting. And in effect, we will create our own unique historical event, for future re-enactors of the world.
Let every person come out!
Emblazon your Cause on a self-fashioned uniform. Enact your own costume drama. Wear your war on your sleeve. Show off your revolutionary style. Assume a historical personage. Dress up in soldier drag. Go into total role-playing. Take your shirt off. Form alliances. Form companies. Raise a border regiment. Marshal a Middlesex infantry. Lead a bugle brigade, drum corps, or dance troupe. Cause a Rebellion, provoke a skirmish, or go AWOL. Use your art supplies to make new forms of trench art. For, wherever you place yourself amidst the advances and retreats of art history, we are making an arsenal, a record, a form of currency, and a conversation.
We want you!
Proposals are now being accepted for a volunteer militia of up to fifty participants, who will build an encampment and produce, on-site, the contents of a public festivity. If Enlisted, you will be called upon to Muster into Action on the installation days of May 10th through May 13th, 2005, during which time you will pitch your tent, in the form of an artistic elaboration of the Cause you are representing at the Muster. There are already troops in place to assist you with your equipment, and there will be a Muster ferry service to transport you by boat onto Governors Island. On the evening of May 13th, you will be served excellent campaign rations, and in recognition of your participation in the Muster you will be ceremoniously welcomed and rewarded with a respectable cash bounty. That night, we will sleep under the stars. On the morning of May 14th, you will register your name on the official Muster Roll and pose for a traditional portrait, in uniform. At noon, the general public will be invited to tour the encampment and participate in whatever activities you deem necessary to engage spectators in your Cause. This could take the form of mock-battles, field games, cheerleading squads, grand processions, quilting bees, performances, demonstrations, or other colorful displays. The event will culminate in a formal Declaration of Causes, in which you will be called by name to an especial platform erected in your honor, to boldly state your response to this question:
What are you fighting for?
Accept this invitation with the promptitude and pleasure that has heretofore marked your response to every call that has been made to you by your friends in need. Conjure your insurgent grandparents, bra-burning aunts, funny uncles, and the transrevolutionaries who have paved the way for your life’s work. Summon your historical peers and chosen family throughout time, and the Causes for which they fought and bled. Fly to arms and succor your brave sisters and brothers already in the field.
Rally at Once, before it is too late!
The Muster Book.
On May the 14th, 2005, artist Allison Smith transformed Governors Island--a former U.S. military base located only minutes by ferry from the southern shore of Manhattan--into a stage for an unforgettable work of public art, commissioned by the Public Art Fund. Inspired by American Civil War battle reenactments, the Muster was a "polyphonic marshalling of voices" in which Smith invited artists and non-artists alike to declare a cause and create a campsite-installation in response to her central question: 'What are you fighting for?' Combining celebration, art, craft, history and activism, this earnest and jubilant event embodied the complexities of its political, aesthetic and cultural moment, and is documented here in photographs and texts by Tom Eccles, James Trainor, Anne Wehr, and 'Mustering Officer' Allison Smith." Click here to buy the book on
Muster Ferry Service for Saturday, May 14th.
Manhattan to Governors Island:
Governors Island to Manhattan:
This website was sponsored by Bellwether Gallery from 2005 to 2007. Click here to view Allison Smith's work from 1997 to 2007 on the Bellwether website.
SPECIAL THANKS to the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC). For more information visit Special Thanks are also due to the National Park Service, whose webpage
on the Governors Island National Memorial is at
ALL PARTICIPIANTS in The Muster will be photographed on site. Click the photo above to view the portraits from The Muster 2004.
Muster Sundays - To Be Announced.
Please visit this site for updated postings of events, locations, and other information.
Muster Cocktails -
This event will no longer be held at Fraunces Tavern. Please visit this site for updated postings of dates, locations and other information.
Under the auspices of Bellwether gallery, Mustering Officer Allison Smith will be issuing artfully made rifle-muskets and sabers March 10th through 14th at the Armory Show, booth number 92-123.
Click Here to download the Armory "Call to Arms" advertisement as a printable pdf document.
Recruits Drilling on Governors Island, 1858
New York taken from Fort Columbus, 1816
Pre-Colonial Era. Lenape Indians settle on island they call “Pagganck” (“Nut Island”).
1524. Giovanni da Verrazzano sights Governors Island.
1609 Henry Hudson explores New York Harbor looking for a route to the Pacific Ocean.
1624. “Noten Eylant” (“Nutten Island”) is one of the Dutch West India Company’s first settlements in the colonial era.
1637 Wouter Van Twiller, Dutch Governor of New Netherlands, privately acquires the island from Native American owners, Cakapeteyno and Pehiwas, allegedly for two axe heads, a string of beads and a few nails.
1664 British take possession of the island during occupation of New Amsterdam. It remains rural, housing the Governors’ sheep, cattle and coach horses.
1698 British officially acquire the island, thereafter called “Governors Island,” for the “benefit and accommodation of His Majesty’s Governors.”
1702 Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, Governor of New York State and an alleged transvestite, builds a “splendid” permanent home for the British governors on high ground.
1732 Governor William Crosby stocks the island with English pheasants.
1755 The 51st Regiment of Foot is the first trained unit of soldiers posted on the island. Later, the unit is joined by the “Royal Americans,” a British regiment recruited in America.
1776 Continental troops under George Washington occupy and fortify Governors Island against British invasion; New York City and Governors Island fall to the British.
1783 British Royal Navy surrenders the island to New York State. In addition to three forts, structures left behind include: a wharf, three wells, three kitchens, captains’ barracks, lieutenants’ barracks, guard house, gardener’s house, summer house, convalescent hospital and barn for cattle.
1784-1794 In the New Republic, unused military facilities fall into disrepair and the island is leased for a racetrack and summer resort.
1794 Using volunteers from Columbia College, political clubs and trade guilds, Governor Clinton organizes construction of new defenses on the island. A passenger rowboat is licensed. Fare: three cents.
1798 The fort is named after patriot John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, a drafter of the peace treaty with England, and the only Founding Father born and bred in New York.
1800 New York State cedes the island to the United States.
1811 Castle Williams, on a point of land at the edge of the Harbor, is completed and named after its designer, Jonathan Williams, the first superintendent of West Point.
1815 Peace Treaty with Britain ending the War of 1812 is celebrated with fireworks on Governors Island.
1821 Island becomes headquarters of the Army of the East.
1823 Governors Island is designated a signal station. Flags announce the arrival of ships in New York Harbor.
1833 Ordinance Department of the Army selects Governors Island as a major arsenal, and occupies waterfront land.
1849-1868 Periodic cholera epidemics sweep the Island.
1852 Ulysses S. Grant resides in the officers’ quarters known as the Block House.
1852 Governors Island changes from an artillery post to a recruiting depot.
1861 Steam tugs supplant the oar-powered barge-ferries to the Island.
1861-1865 During the Civil War, Governors Island is the central Army recruiting station for the Eastern Seaboard; Castle Williams is a prison camp, sometimes holding over 1,000 Confederate soldiers.
1865 Confederate Captain John Yates Beall is executed on Governors Island for piracy on Union shipping.
1870 Yellow fever epidemic rages on the island.
1878 Island changes from Army fortification to administrative center.
1895 First squirrels are brought to Governors Island.
1897 Congress proposes a bill to convey Governors Island to the City of New York “for the purpose of a public park.” The Army Board of Engineers, citing the Island’s indispensability “for military purposes,” soundly rejects the proposal.
1909 Wilbur Wright takes off from Governors Island on the first flight ever over American waters, circling the Statue of Liberty before returning. A few days later he flies from the island to Grant’s Tomb and back.
1914-1918 During World War I, the island is a major supply base and embarkation point.
1918 “World’s shortest railroad” (a locomotive and three flat cars) is built to carry coal, machinery and supplies from the pier to shops and warehouses.
1937-1938 Comedians Tommy and Dick Smothers are born at the base hospital while their father, Major Thomas Boyln Smothers, is stationed on the island.
1939-1945 During World War II, the island is a major administration center and chief reception center for inductees.
1942 WAC detachment brings the island its first women soldiers.
1966 U.S. Army leaves Governors Island. Island converted to a U.S. Coast Guard base, becoming the largest in the world.
1966-1996 Island’s piers house six vessels—Coast Guard cutters, tenders and tugs—for law enforcement, buoy care and ice breaking.
1976 Governors Island hosts 20,000 residents and visitors on Independence Day for fireworks and a parade of tall ships for America’s Bicentennial.
1988 Diplomatic meetings between Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev held at the Admiral’s House.
1996 Coast Guard leaves Governors Island.
2001 The 22-acre Governors Island National Monument is established
by presidential proclamation to preserve Fort Jay and Castle Williams.
2002 President George W. Bush, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announce that the federal government will sell the island back to the people of New York for one dollar.
2003 After 200 years, Governors Island is returned to the people of New York City and State through the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation. The Governors Island National Monument is
transferred to the National Park Service.
ALLISON SMITH, a Brooklyn-based artist, is interested in the notion of “authentic reproductions” – a common if oxymoronic phrase describing contemporary objects or tableaux that conjure historical aesthetics and episodes. In her sculptures and mixed-media installations, Smith investigates the ways in which a simple prop, bridging past and present, can come to signify more than its appearance suggests. She creates colonial handcrafts, Civil War memorabilia, and 19th-century weapons, often arranged to transform the exhibition space into that of a historic home or period room.
For the past ten years, Smith has conducted an investigation of the cultural phenomenon of Civil War reenactment, or Living History, founded on the belief that historical events gain meaning and relevance when performed live in an open-air, interactive setting. Smith has appropriated the reenactor’s aesthetic palette to produce sculptural installations that examine the role craft plays in the construction of national identity. Over the summer of 2004, Smith organized a weekend encampment on the Catskills property of Mark Dion and J. Morgan Puett in which artists came together to create their own unique historical event. Emerging from that experience, the Muster on Governors Island is the most complex project she has undertaken thus far, broadening the Civil War metaphor to reflect on current events, and involving potentially hundreds of participants.
Smith was born in Manassas, Virginia in 1972. She received a BA in psychology from the New School for Social Research (1995), a BFA from Parsons School of Design (1995), and an MFA from Yale University School of Art (1999). She participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (1999-2000). Smith has exhibited her work in numerous venues in the U.S. and abroad, including the U.C. Berkeley Art Museum MATRIX series (2007); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007); Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2006); Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2006); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2006); Arario gallery, South Korea (2006); P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2005); and Studio Voltaire, London (2005).
Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day – no brokers or speculators – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestle to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.

-- Walt Whitman, 1861
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