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The Lore and Lure of Coney Island

Everyone’s heard of Coney Island -the Wonder Wheel, the side shows, the miles of sandy beach.

Yet, most of us have never seen it except through the eyes of others, including artists and filmmakers who used it as a prism through which to shape their view.

And, what they saw was a place with both lovers and con men, natural beauty and bawdy amusement, social inclusion and class boundaries.

Coney Island is not an easy place for them to define, so they portrayed what they saw - but also what they wanted it to be.

Above all else, Coney Island was a melting pot of ethnicity and race and class.

A new exhibit on Coney Island is on display at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art through May 31. It brings together cultural artifacts that capture the changing spirit of Coney Island over more than a century.


  • Robin Jaffee Frank is the Chief Curator and Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. She’s the curator for “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008”
  • Joshua Glick  is Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies at Hendrix College,  currently on leave to complete a postdoc teaching position at Yale. He’s contributed to the Coney Island exhibition and will travel with it as it continues across the country
  • Frank Mitchell is the Assistant Director & Curator for The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

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