This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


Artists Space
55 Walker St.
Wednesday, August 16, free, 7:00

Ugo Rondinone’s citywide celebration of his husband, “I ❤ John Giorno,” continues Wednesday night with a special poetry jam at Artists Space organized by Bowery Poetry Club, the downtown institution down the street from John Giorno’s apartment and studio. The free event will be hosted by Bob Holman, Nikhil Melnechuk, Ashley August, and Mason Granger and feature readings by Julius Baltonado, Stefan Bondell, Steve Cannon, Lynne DeSilva Johnson, Timothy DuWhite, Joel François, Myles Golden, David Henderson, Sam Jablon, Amy Lawless, Lisa Markuson, Sam O’Hana, Noel Quiñones, Shawn Randall/Symphonics Live, Patrick Roche, Hannah Wood, and Anton Yakovlev. Swiss artist Rondinone’s tribute to his life partner, the eighty-year-old Giorno, a poet, painter, musician, and performance artist who has no time for rules, is taking place at thirteen venues, with exhibitions, wall murals, film and video, portraiture, at the Kitchen, Hunter College, the New Museum, White Columns, Sky Art in Hell’s Kitchen, the Swiss Institute, Red Bull Arts New York, Artists Space, and the Broadway and Washington Square windows.


Ntozake Shange (photo © Adger Cowans 2015)

Ntozake Shange will be at free SummerStage spoken-word show August 9 in East River Park (photo © Adger Cowans 2015)

Who: Staceyann Chin, Ntozake Shange, Sarah Kay
What: SummerStage program with Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Where: East River Park, FDR Drive between Jackson & Cherry Sts.
When: Wednesday, August 9, free, 7:00
Why: Any chance to see poet, playwright, activist, novelist, children’s book writer, and feminist Ntozake Shange is a special opportunity, so don’t miss her on August 9 when she comes to East River Park in a spoken-word SummerStage program held in conjunction with the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Winner of Obie Awards for Mother Courage and Her Children and for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, the Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship and nominated for a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy, Shange changed her given name from Paulette Williams while in graduate school, choosing one that means “she who comes with her own things” (Ntozake) and “who walks like a lion” (Shange), which represents her quite well. She’ll be joined at East River Park by Brooklyn-based, Jamaica-born Staceyann Chin, a self-described “out poet and political activist” and single mother who has appeared on and off Broadway and written a memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, as well as New York poet and Project VOICE founder and codirector Sarah Kay, who began reading her poetry publicly in the city when she was fourteen, has published such books as No Matter the Wreckage, b, and The Type, and gave the extremely popular TED talk “If I should have a daughter . . .” in 2011.


(photo by Chris Cameron)

Emily Johnson’s Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars will take place overnight on Randall’s Island on August 19 (photo by Chris Cameron)

Who: Emily Johnson / Catalyst
What: All-night outdoor performance gathering
Where: Randall’s Island Park
When: Saturday, August 19, $50, dusk to after sunrise
Why: You don’t just go to a show by Emily Johnson / Catalyst; you become part of an experience. In such presentations as Niicugni and Shore, Johnson builds a sense of community for all involved, including cast, crew, and audience. On August 19, her multiyear project Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars reaches its next level on Randall’s Island, where people will gather for an evening of song, dance, storytelling, quilting, ritual, and more under the night sky. The world premiere, presented by Performance Space 122, is directed by three-time Obie winner Ain Gordon (The Family Business, Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell) and features performers Tania Isaac, twelve-year-old Georgia Lucas, and Johnson, with visual design by textile artist Maggie Thompson, lighting by Lenore Doxsee, and quilt construction by volunteers from around the country. The ten-to-twelve-hour piece explores such questions as “What do you want for your well-being? For the well-being of your chosen friends and family? For your neighborhood? For your town, city, reserve, tribal nation, world?” You can participate as much as you want as the audience is led into discussions and programs about engaged citizenship, safety, Indigenous people, and making connections. Four thousand square feet of quilts will serve as home base for performances, resting, and just hanging out. Supper, breakfast, and snacks will be served as well. Johnson is a magnetic personality who cares very deeply about the future of all the people and animals living on this planet, so Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars should be a powerful and moving experience, in addition to being a lot of fun. Look for our interview with Johnson about the project coming soon; in the meantime, you can contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to help fund this project here.


Doria Dee Johnson

“Doria Dee Johnson at her home in Chicago, Illinois, 2017” (photo by Melissa Bunni Elian for the Equal Justice Initiative)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, August 5, free, 5:00 - 11:00

The Brooklyn Museum starts preparing for the West Indian American Day Carnival events over Labor Day weekend with the August edition of its free First Saturday program. (First Saturdays is skipped in September.) There will be live performances by RIVA & Bohio Music and the Drums and Bugles International Bands Association; the mobile art center caribBEING House, where visitors can share their own stories; a gallery tour of “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” with Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art curatorial assistant Allie Rickard; pop-up gallery talks of “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas” with teen apprentices; a screening of Matt Ruskin’s Sundance Audience Award winner Crown Heights, introduced by actress Natalie Paul and followed by a Q&A with film subject Colin Warner, community activist Rick Jones, and attorney Ames Grawert; a sneak peek of Cori Wapnowska’s documentary Bruk Out!, followed by a talkback with Wapnowska and Dancehall Queen Famous Red, moderated by Hyperallergic editor Seph Rodney; a Book Club event with Oneka LaBennett reading and discussing her new book, She’s Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn, followed by a signing; an Artist’s Eye talk by Melissa Bunni Elian on her contribution to “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America”; a wukkout! movement workshop based on high-energy soca dancing; a hands-on workshop in which participants can make paintings with watercolor and salt; and a Flag Fete in which visitors can bring their own national flag, joined by female-identified Caribbean artists Sol Nova, Young Devyn, and Ting & Ting featuring Kitty Cash and special guests.


moca mixer summer jam

Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St. between Howard & Grand Sts.
Friday, July 28, $30, 6:30

On July 28, the Museum of Chinese in America is hosting a multidisciplinary Summer Jam, with live music by YouTube ukelele star Nix, singer-songwriters Grace Ming and Jessica Rowboat, and Brooklyn folk duo Heartland Nomads, spoken-word poetry by Edric Huang and Lavinia Liang from Songline, stand-up comedy with Joon Chung, and storytelling from Talkingstick cofounder Master Lee. There will also be a raffle and a sale in the shop benefiting the museum’s educational program, light hors d’oeuvres courtesy of the pulled-noodle experts at the awesome Xi’an Famous Foods, and unlimited Hiro Sake, Tiger Beer, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, and other alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. And as a bonus, attendees will be treated to a preview of MOCA’s upcoming exhibition, “FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures,” which opens October 5.


Poet CAConrad will be giving personalized (Soma)tic poetry rituals in Madison Square Park through July 23 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Poet CAConrad will be offering free personalized (Soma)tic poetry rituals in Madison Square Park through July 23 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Madison Square Park Oval Lawn
Twenty-Fourth St. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Through July 23, free, 12 noon – 5:00 pm (workshops nightly at 6:00)

“Every single human being is creative. When we commit ourselves to nurturing our artistic capacities we improve our ability to more deeply discern the world around us and make the constructive decisions needed in order to thrive in this world,” fifty-one-year-old poet CAConrad writes in his (Soma)tic Manifesto. Through July 23, Conrad will be performing “(Soma)tic Poetry Rituals” in Madison Square Park, under one of American artist and MacArthur Fellow Josiah McElheny’s three sculptures that comprise “Prismatic Park,” a collaborative public art project that is hosting free dance, music, and poetry through October 8, sponsored by Danspace Project, Blank Forms, and Poets House. Born in Kansas and raised in Pennsylvania, Conrad is the author of such books as The City Real & Imagined, ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, and the upcoming While Standing in Line for Death. In 1998, Conrad’s boyfriend, AIDS activist Earth (Mark Holmes), was brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in Tennessee at the age of thirty-six. In order to break out of his subsequent depression and his inability to break away from a factorylike existence that had been with him since childhood when his family ran a casket company, Conrad developed rituals that helped respark his creative energy and his life in general. He is currently in the midst of a six-day residency in Madison Square Park, sitting (in the shade) at a small table under McElheny’s open red vaulted-roof pavilion (with red and yellow glass), where the public is invited to join him for approximately twenty minutes as Conrad develops a personalized (Soma)tic poetry ritual for each individual participant, involving crystals, liquids, and writing. The rituals are meant to help anyone seeking new ways to cope with today’s world; they are not limited to writers. The personalized rituals — bring pen and paper to take copious notes — are first come, first served, from 12 noon to 5:00, followed by workshops from 6:00 to 8:00; on July 22, Conrad delves into crystal trees, while on July 23 he will read tarot cards. “Prismatic Park,” which also features a blue sound wall and a reflective green dance floor, continues with concerts by Joe McPhee & Graham Lambkin (July 25-30), Shelley Hirsch (August 22-27), Matana Roberts (September 5-10), and Limpe Fuchs with poet Patrick Rosal (October 3-8), dance by Netta Yerushalmy (August 1-6) and Jodi Melnick (September 12-17, 19-24), and poetry by Joshua Bennett (August 15-20), Donna Masini (August 29 – September 3), and Mónica de la Torre (September 26 – October 1).


Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz talks about winning the Pulitzer in documentary about the coveted prize

THE PULITZER AT 100 (Kirk Simon, 2016)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway at 63rd St.
Opens Friday, July 21

Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Kirk Simon’s The Pulitzer at 100 boasts a remarkable cast and some of the best lines ever written in the history of American arts and letters. It’s also a self-congratulatory bore. Simon celebrates the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize, first awarded by Columbia University in four categories in 1917, by speaking with a vast array of winners from the worlds of journalism (Carl Bernstein, Martin Baron, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, Sheri Fink, David Remnick), fiction (Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Jeffrey Eugenides), drama (Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Ayad Akhtar), music (Wynton Marsalis, John Adams), biography (Robert A. Caro), poetry (Yusef Komunyakaa), photography (John Filo, Nick Ut), and more. He also films Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, John Lithgow, and Yara Shahidi performing selections from the works of some of their favorite writers, including Philip Roth, Harper Lee, and Eugene O’Neill. Interspersed between all of the literary lathering are interesting tidbits — delivered by such historians as Cyrus Patell, Theodore L. Glasser, Roy Harris, and James McGrath Morris — from the life and times of one Joseph Pulitzer, an Austro-Hungarian merchant’s son who came to America as a mercenary to fight in the Civil War. Pulitzer eventually got involved in newspaper publishing, had yellow-journalism battles with William Randolph Hearst, and left money for Columbia to start the Graduate School of Journalism.

Simon lets the prize winners glory in their success, explaining what winning the award meant for their careers; the journalism awardees also delve into the stories they covered to win the trophy, including Kent State, Watergate, Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square, and 9/11. While there are some fascinating revelations — particularly by Ut, describing how he took the famous photo of young Vietnamese girl Kim Phuc running from a napalm blast, then poured water over her back to help her (Kim also appears in the film) — most of the news stories are already overly familiar to the viewer, with not enough time to really tackle the subjects properly here. Of course, that’s not really what the film is centrally about, anyway. And it gets especially glib when several of the winners poke fun at the physical award itself, as if it’s really no big deal. Meanwhile, the performances by the stellar actors are far too serious and feel like their readings are just time fillers. Simon (Chimps: So Like Us, Strangers No More) can’t seem to decide what kind of film he’s making. It would have been more interesting learning further about Pulitzer himself rather than listening to terrific writers lavish praise on themselves, their colleagues, and their forebears. Oh, the film, which has no voice-over narration, does put to rest one important part of the Pulitzer legacy: Only one of the speakers says “Pyew-litzer,” while all the others pronounce Joseph’s last name as “Pull-itzer.” The Pulitzer at 100 opens July 21 at Lincoln Plaza, with Simon participating in Q&As at the 7:00 shows on Friday and Saturday night.