It’s easy to hit New York City with a one-track mind, eager to explore just a small slice of the city’s vast arts and culture scene. Some go for the galleries and museums, and others to Broadway shows. But there’s a rich breadth and depth to the city’s cultural life that’s best appreciated by dipping into at least a little bit of each one. We’ve got some suggestions to help you make those tough choices when travel time rolls around.
Welling Court Mural Project
Although the graffiti mecca dubbed 5Pointz, a building in Long Island City formerly covered with works by hundreds of street artists from around the world, was whitewashed in November of 2013, you can still find plenty of street art in Queens thanks to Ad Hoc Art's annual Welling Court Mural Project. For its sixth annual event held in June of 2015, the gallery published a list showing the locations of more than 130 works in the Welling Court area around 30th Avenue and 12th Street. Find more murals in the Bushwick and Dumbo areas of Brooklyn, and Little Italy in Manhattan. If you’re short on time, get your fix with a single Swoon mural located in the Red Hook part of Brooklyn. Find more information on the Ad Hoc Art website.
One of 46 newer public art offerings, “Image Objects” at City Hall Park in Manhattan features works by seven international artists exploring the changing landscape of contemporary digital life. One frames a large stone face with neon, while another places a basketball balanced on a single finger atop an obelisk that shimmers as its color seems to shift between blue and purple in the sun. Find more public art gems in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Tappen Park in Staten Island, Daj Jammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan, and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. See more information on the NYC Parks website.
Today’s hot ticket on Broadway is Hamilton, the second hip hop-infused musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote In the Heights, which channels life for those living in New York’s Washington Heights. Hamilton explores the personal and political life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, who was abandoned by his father during childhood and immigrated alone to the United States as a teen. If you can’t snag tickets, hit 2015 Tony Awards winners Fun Home and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time instead. Find more information on the Hamilton website.
Peep works by gay and lesbian artists at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in SoHo, where “Interface: Queer Artists Forming Communities through Social Media” featuring works in several media by 30 New York artists and continuing through August 2. The gallery-like museum specializes in exhibiting and preserving gay and lesbian art, and supporting the artists who create it. Those who get to New York City after “Interface” closes can explore other exhibitions of social, political, and erotic art. Cool art spaces nearby include Recess and The Drawing Room. Read further on the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art website.
“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life”
This new exhibition featuring 14 of the Kahlo’s paintings and works on paper continues at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx through November 1. Focused on Kahlo’s appreciation for the natural world, the exhibition also reimagines her garden and studio at La Casa Azul in Mexico City and highlights botanicals prevalent in her artwork. If gardens are your thing, also make your way to Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the formal Conservatory Gardens in Central Park. See details at The New York Botanical Garden website.
Part bookstore, part performance and exhibition space, this home to publisher powerHouse Books boasts eclectic book offerings with a focus on fine art, design, and pop culture. Explore titles about film, dance, music, photography, fashion, cuisine, and more in their chic warehouse-style venue – and check out their events, which are sometimes held in their own space featuring cool indoor amphitheater-style seating, but other times in community spaces including nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park. Currently they’re showing prints of beautiful illustrations from Chris Gorman’s new Indi Surfs book. Find more on the powerHouse Arena website.
“America Is Hard to See”
This inaugural exhibition of the relocated Whitney Museum of American Art, which recently opened in its new Renzo Piano-designed building in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, features more than 600 works capturing the history of American art. Other cool exhibitions now on view in New York City include “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Mid-Century and Today” at the Museum of Arts and Design and “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” at the Brooklyn Museum – where you can also explore “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.” Find more information on the Whitney Museum of American Art website.
Established in 1972, this artist-run collective in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn features works by established and emerging women artists. Current shows in three gallery spaces include “Urban Road Kill” by Barbara Siegel featuring drawing inspired by run-over, flattened objects and “Edge Thin” featuring works by Alina Tenser that explore the body’s relationship to utilitarian objects – as well as “Wish You Were Here” with more than 300 postcard-size works by local and international artists. Pop over to the Smack Mellon gallery on a nearby corner to see works exhibited in a repurposed 1910 boiler house. Find more information on the A.I.R. Gallery website.
Watch for works of art while riding the subway or walking through subway stations in all five boroughs. You’ll spot Roy Lichtenstein’s Times Square Mural, which references the history of New York transit, installed at the 42nd Street/Times Square station and Sol LeWitt’s Whirls and Twirls comprising waves of brightly-colored rectangles at the 59th Street/Columbus Circle station. Also look for Faith Ringgold’s work conjuring Harlem history at the 125th Street station, Eric Fischl’s circus-theme art at 34th Street/Penn Station, and Tom Otterness’ toy-like figures of underground workers at the 14th Street/8th Avenue station. Find more information on the Metropolitan Transit Authority website.
Housed within a converted century-old school building, this exhibition and performance space affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is located in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. Specializing in contemporary art, MOMA PS1 is currently showing works by several international artists and readying to launch its summer Warm Up series of outdoor music, sound, DJ, and other performance. Although the 1986 James Turrell skyspace Meeting is currently closed for maintenance, you can find a Crayola-square by Sol LeWitt in a red-brick nook inside the former boiler room now used for art installations. Check out the dinette and art-centric bookstore while you’re there. Find more information on the MOMA PS1 website.
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