In 1983, the third Monday in January was officially recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of the civil rights leader who was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Dr. King would have turned eighty-eight this month, and you can celebrate his legacy on Monday by participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service project or attending one of numerous special events taking place around the city. Below are some of the highlights:
Saturday, January 14
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 2:00, 3:00; Muslim Arts Series: Many Tunes, One Melody, 5:00 & 6:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Action in a Time of Injustice: MLK Salon with Yavilah McCoy, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 6:45
Sunday, January 15
MLK, Jr., I Have a Dream Celebration: Totally Tots Studio — Meet the Artist, 10:00 am; Holding History: MLK’s Life, 11:00 am; Protest Posters, 11:00 am; DNA Bracelets, 12 noon; MLK, Jr. Cinema, Our Friend, Martin (Rob Smiley & Vincenzo Trippetti, 1999), 11:00 am, 3:30; Story Time at BCM: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other books, 1:30 & 3:00, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., $11
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 12 noon, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Concert: Soul to Soul, with Lisa Fishman, Cantor Magda Fishman, Elmore James, Tony Perry, and musical director Zalmen Mlotek, presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., $20-$28, 2:00
Special Presentation: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), screening followed by Q&A, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 5:30
Monday, January 16
MLK, Jr., I Have a Dream Celebration: Totally Tots Studio — Meet the Artist, learn about Kehinde Wiley, 10:00 am; Love, Hope & Peace Postcards, 11:00 am; I Have a Dream Totes, 12 noon ($5); Brooklyn United Marching Band – Celebrating the Dream Performance, 2:00; Story Time at BCM: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, 1:30 & 3:00; Freedom Hands, 2:00, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., $11
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Martin’s Mosaic, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm; Historic Heroines: Coretta Scott King, 11:00 am, 12 noon, 4:00; KaNu Dance Theater, 2:00 & 3:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $8-$12
Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Thirty-first annual celebration, with keynote speaker Opal Tometi, the Institutional Radio Choir, and Sacred Steel band the Campbell Brothers, Peter Jay Sharp Building, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 10:30 am; screening of Ava DuVernay’s 13th, BAM Rose Cinemas, free, 1:00; launch of Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn with readings by Carl Hancock Rux, commentary by Theodore Hamm, and audience Q&A, BAM Fisher lower lobby, 321 Ashland Pl., free, 1:00
MLK Express Yourself Day, create signs with your own poster board, Old Stone House, 336 Third St., free, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
The World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Matinee, B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., $25-$30 (plus $10 minimum per person at tables), 12:30
What’s Your Dream? Martin Luther King Jr. Day Family Program: reading of Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do with an Idea?, broadcast of King speech, and art workshop, Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St., free, 1:00 – 2:30
MLK Day Screening: The Negro and the American Promise (1963), Museum of the Moving Image, Redstone Theater, 36-01 35th Ave., $7-$15 (includes admission to galleries), 3:00
Artists Celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy: Featuring Sweet Honey in the Rock, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 5:00
Special Presentation: Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), screening followed by Q&A, JCC Harlem, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 7:30
Martin Luther King, Jr. Evening Show: A Decade of Soul, classic soul & Motown revue, preceded by Aretha Franklin Tribute feat. “Lady Jae” Jones & the Decade of Soul Band featuring Bruce “Big Daddy” Wayne and special guest Prentiss McNeil of the Drifters, $20-$25 (plus $10 minimum per person at tables), B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., 7:30
LIVE FROM BARNES & NOBLE: JOSH GROBAN, DENÉE BARTON, DAVE MALLOY, AND CAST MEMBERS FROM THE GREAT COMET…
Who: Josh Groban, Denée Barton, Dave Malloy, Steve Suskin, more
What: Live performance and book signing
Where: Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th St. at Lexington Ave., 212-369-2180
When: Friday, January 13, free, 4:00 (priority seating with book purchase at B&N Upper East Side starting at 9:00 am)
Why: Steven Suskin’s new book, The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway (Sterling, November 2016, $40), takes theater fans behind the scenes of the remarkable story of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, an electropop opera based on a seventy-page section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace that began life in the eighty-seven-seat house Ars Nova in 2012, only to find itself a smash hit at the 1,200-capacity Imperial on Broadway four years later. The book includes a five-song CD (with three songs from the off-Broadway production and two from the Broadway edition) as well as a foreword by Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis. On January 13 at 4:00, Suskin will be at the Upper East Side B&N on Eighty-Sixth St. to sign copies of the book, joined by Denée Barton, who is exquisite as Natasha, Josh Groban, who has earned raves as Pierre, and Dave Malloy, the show’s creator, composer, librettist, orchestrator, music director, and original Pierre. The B&N event will include live performances along with a signing; the participants will only be signing copies of the new book that were purchased that day, starting at 9:00, at the store, which also gets you priority seating; no other memorabilia will be autographed.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, January 7, free, 5:00 - 11:00
A lot of Americans were glad to bid good riddance to 2016, although there’s plenty of fear for what can happen in 2017. The Brooklyn Museum explores some of those very legitimate concerns in its free First Saturday program on January 7. There will be live performances by Tank and the Bangas, Discwoman (DJs BEARCAT and SHYBOI) and Cakes Da Killa; a Brooklyn Dance Festival workshop; a book club reading, discussion, and signing with Daniel José Older for his latest Bone Street Rumba novel, Battle Hill Bolero; a hands-on art workshop in which participants can make masks inspired by “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt”; a screening of Jason Benjamin’s Suited, followed by a “Queer Style as Resistance in Post-Trump Activism” talkback with Benjamin, dapperQ, Anita Dolce Vita, Daniel Friedman, Debbie-Jean Lemonte, and Rae Tutera; a curator tour of “A Woman’s Afterlife” with Edward Bleiberg; pop-up gallery talks on “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty”; a community resource fair with Active Citizen Project/Project EATS, Caribbean Leadership Empowerment Foundation, Historic Districts Council, Spaceworks, Carroll Gardens Association, and Pioneer Works; Kids Corner storytelling (“Virtuous Journeys”) with Rezz and Mando; and pop-up publishing with DIY feminist publishers Pilot Press, led by Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden. In addition, you can check out such exhibits as “Iggy Pop Life Class by Jeremy Deller,” “Beverly Buchanan — Ruins and Rituals,” “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago,” “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas,” “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty,” and “Infinite Blue”; admission to “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present,” which closes January 8, requires a discounted admission fee of $10.
Muriel Schulman Theater
106 Calyer St. (enter on Banker St.)
January 5-8, $16-$20
Most of the winter performance festivals, such as Under the Radar, COIL, Prototype, and American Realness, consist of experimental works that have either already been performed elsewhere or will afterward. However, the nonprofit Triskelion Arts, which was founded in Brooklyn in 2000 to “foster the development and presentation of the performing arts,” has something very different in mind with its “Never Before, Never Again” festival, which consists of dance, music, comedy, theater, poetry, and other disciplines in improvisational performances that have never been presented before and never will again quite like they will be during the third annual event, running January 5-8. The improv celebration begins January 5 with the Lovelies; Alyssa Gersony; Judah Levenson, Hank Mason, and Shane Gertner; kamrDANCE; NOW ACCEPTING ALL OFFERS MADE; and Katelyn Halpern & Dancers. On January 6, the lineup features Schmidt / Keenoy Movement / Sound Lab; slowdanger; Jog Films; Debbie Z & Friends; and the Lovelies. Saturday’s roster boasts Mauri Connors and Mindy Toro; TanzKlub; the Shelburne Trio (bassist Kevin Farrell, dancer Rachel Mckinstry, and poet Josh Adler); stb x at; Sarah Foster / MoveWorks; and Boom Bat Gesture Performance Group. The festival concludes January 8 with Ali Perkins; Kirsten Schnittker; Jason Mears / Quentin Tolimieri; There’s No Law (Rachel Cohen, Michael Henry, Irene Siegel); and Lokasparsa Dance Projects / clyde forth. Tickets are $16 in advance, $20 at the door to check out these now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t performances.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.
Friday - Wednesday through January 11, $18 - $25 (pay-what-you-wish Saturday, 5:45-7:45)
“To be an artist,” Agnes Martin once explained, “you look, you perceive, you recognize what is going through your mind, and it is not ideas. Everything you feel, and everything you see — your whole life goes through your mind, you know. I have to recognize it and go with it.” The same can be said for visitors who attend the absolutely lovely, simply titled retrospective “Agnes Martin,” continuing at the Guggenheim through January 11. As you spiral your way up the chronological exhibit, you are not only connecting with Martin’s life but your own as well, giving you a newfound appreciation of your very existence. Born in March 1912 in Saskatchewan, Canada, Martin lived in New York City and New Mexico during her most productive years, working daily up to her death in 2004 at the age of ninety-two. A former teacher (and onetime driver for John Huston), she never married and never had children; she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, living alone her entire adult life. Her paintings defy categorization, which was fine with her; her canvases incorporated Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism but were much more than that. “I would like [my pictures] to represent beauty, innocence, and happiness,” she proclaimed. “I would like them all to represent that. Exaltation.” And it is indeed exalting walking through the exhibition, which includes more than one hundred works that reveal Martin’s expert control of line, geometric form, grids, and color, delivered in spare, understated style.
The paintings feel at home in the Guggenheim bays, complemented by the white walls, lighting fixtures, and horizontal vents, which sometimes appear to have been created just for this show, earning bonus kudos to senior curator Tracey Bashkoff and guest curator Tiffany Bell. The first gallery actually begins with the midcareer suite “The Islands,” a group of nearly identical monochromatic paintings that set the tone for the rest of the show. “You see one canvas after another, and they’re similar until you look at them up close and you see how the artist’s hand has moved through the canvas and the marks that she has made,” notes Bashkoff, referring to Martin’s general oeuvre. “It’s by slowing down and looking at Martin’s canvases individually, taking in all of the details — it’s at those moments that you get close to this thoughtfulness and deliberateness.” Other paintings that reward extra attention are “This Rain,” two rectangles reminiscent of Mark Rothko; the kinetic sculpture “The Wave”; “White Flower,” a white grid on a dark canvas that has ghostly images floating in the background; “Little Sister,” composed of rows of dots; “Friendship,” a mesmerizing canvas of sparkling gold; “Happy Holiday,” boasting alternate stripes of white and peach pastel; “Heather,” consisting of rare vertical rectangles; and “Homage to Life,” from 2003, a floating black trapezoid in the center of a gray ground.
“I believe in living above the line,” Martin said. “Above the line is happiness and love, you know. Below the line is all sadness and destruction and unhappiness. And I don’t go down below the line for anything.” Those are words to live by, from an artist who approached the world in a unique way, beautifully memorialized in one of the best shows of the year. On January 10 at 6:30 ($15), Quiet: A Poetry Reading for Agnes Martin will feature recitations by poets Ari Banias, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and Souvankham Thammavongsa, a reception, and an exhibition viewing, an evening curated by artist Jen Bervin. Martin fans should also make their way to Dia:Beacon, where several rooms of her work are on long-term display.
Who: The Poetry Project
What: Forty-third Annual New Year’s Day Marathon Benefit Reading
Where: The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, 131 East Tenth St., 212-674-0910
When: Sunday, January 1, $20 in advance, $25 at the door, 3:00 pm - 2:00 am
Why: More than 150 writers, musicians, actors, dancers, and other artists will take the podium in this annual Poetry Project benefit, this year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Poetry Project, which “promotes, fosters, and inspires the reading and writing of contemporary poetry by (a) presenting contemporary poetry to diverse audiences, (b) increasing public recognition, awareness, and appreciation of poetry and other arts, (c) providing a community setting in which poets and artists can exchange ideas and information, and (d) encouraging the participation and development of new poets from a broad range of styles.” This year’s forty-third annual marathon boasts another stellar lineup, including Penny Arcade, Jennifer Bartlett, Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan, Justin Vivian Bond, Steve Cannon, Yoshiko Chuma, Andrei Codrescu, Grace Dunham, Steve Earle, John Giorno, Nick Hallett, Yvonne Meier, Jonas Mekas, Thurston Moore, Eileen Myles, Yvonne Rainer, Lee Ranaldo, Will Rawls, Bob Rosenthal, Sarah Schulman, Elliott Sharp, Tammy Faye Starlight, ynne Tillman, Edwin Torres, Rachel Trachtenburg, Martha Wilson, Anne Waldman and Fast Speaking Music, CAConrad, and Church of Betty, among many others.