The Bronx is celebrating its centennial as a county this year. It's a pretty big deal, considering that before 1914 anyone living in the city's northernmost borough had to trek to lower Manhattan to register a deed or serve on a jury, according to official Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan. "It was a world away," Ultan said, pointing out that the subway had barely reached the Bronx by then.
The centennial will be reflected in official events throughout the borough this spring, including during the annual Bronx Week celebration. Not interested in local history? There's still plenty to do, from canoeing down the Bronx River to catching cutting edge art at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
Here's a curated list of some of the best events in the Bronx this spring.
The Orchid Show
This year’s Orchid Show derives its theme from the estate gardens of Key West and gives them a contemporary twist. Taking place in the glasshouse galleries of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the show promises to be a Florida-themed floral feast for visitors while serving as a respite from the long winter. “We’re showcasing where people flee,” remarked Francisca Coelho, the designer of this year’s show. She compared the show to a staged production. “It’s using the plants to create theater and make it appealing,” she said. But the goal is serious: emphasizing the importance of conservation. Plenty of activities are planned around the show as well, from “orchid evenings” where cocktails are de rigueur to gardening programs for the little ones.
Where: The New York Botanical Garden
When: March 1 to April 21
The Politics of Paint: Landscape Painting in the Soviet Union, 1953–1964
The Derfner Judaica Museum is located in the Hebrew Home, where more than 7,000 senior citizens reside. Besides the unusual location, the 5,000-square-foot space in Riverdale is also renowned for exhibiting rare works by artists from the former Soviet Union and its satellites. “The Politics of Paint” showcases a group of Soviet artists that flourished during the so-called "Thaw" following the death of Stalin when cultural production was allowed more freedom. While the artists at the time explored currents in impressionism and post-impressionism, they also hewed to a nationalistic spirit in their works. The painting pictured here, by Peter Shlikov and titled "The Ararat Plain," was created in 1962.
Where: Derfner Judaica Museum
When: Through April 20 (Credit: The Art Collection at The Hebrew Home at Riverdale)
Paquito Guzmán's Farewell Concert
The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts has a long tradition of presenting some of the most iconic Latin musicians in the world, from Willie Colon to Ruben Blades. Salsero Paquito Guzman may not be as well known among English-speaking audiences, but he is considered one of the biggest names in “salsa romántica” — romantic salsa. At 75, he’s decided to retire, choosing the Bronx for his farewell show in New York City. Tickets are $45-$55.
More information: Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
When: April 26 (Credit: Allen Spatz Photography)
Rakonto Wave Hill
Go for the music, stay for the gardens. “Rakonto Wave Hill” is a jazz suite composed by award-winning jazz pianist Daniel Kelly and commissioned by Wave Hill, a stunning 28-acre public garden along the Hudson River. To compose the one-hour piece, Kelly interviewed staff and visitors to the garden to learn about their “experiences and relationship to nature.” The resulting, one-hour piece will have its world premiere and be performed by Kelly and about a half-dozen musicians under the vaulted ceiling of classy Armor Hall. Tickets for adults are $32.
Where: Wave Hill
When: April 27 (Credit: Wave Hill)
Beyond The Supersquare
Works in a variety of media — from installation to photography — by over two dozen contemporary Latin American artists will be shown in this original exhibition organized by the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Enigmatically titled “Beyond the Supersquare,” the 60 works were selected based on their exploration of themes of urbanization and modernist architecture in Latin America, including the one above by Mexican Livia Corona that depicts rows of 300-square-foot homes in central Mexico. The “Supersquare” in the title of the show refers to the “super-blocks” designed by famed architect Lucio Costa in the planned city of Brasilia with the aim of being self-contained neighborhood units complete with their own schools, parks and communal shopping areas.
Where: Bronx Museum of the Arts
When: May 1, 2014 to Jan. 11, 2015 (Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Agustina Ferreyra, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
There's so much to do during Bronx Week that seven days isn't enough. From May 9 to 18, the borough celebrates its history and culture in style and in the streets with a parade, food festival, a black-tie celebrity ball, concerts and dozens of other events. "It is when the entire borough comes out and celebrates the best of the Bronx," says Olga Tirado, executive director of the borough's tourism council. The borough also inducts new members of the Bronx Walk of Fame on May 18. Past inductees have included author E.L. Doctorow, talk show host Regis Philbin, former U.S. Congressman Herman Badillo and actress Joy Bryant.
More information: Bronx Tourism Council
When: May 8 to 18 (Credit: Flickr/De Vriese-Verstraete)
Bronx River Flotilla
Paddling season opens on the Bronx River with a 5K canoe challenge and a nearly five-mile flotilla down one of the most unsung but beautiful urban waterways in New York City. “There’s a combination of natural beauty, industry and interaction with the human environment,” said Damian Griffin, the chief educator at the Bronx River Alliance, which hosts the events. The 5K is a fundraiser for the alliance and registration is required, but the flotilla is open to anyone and even newbie paddlers are welcome to join in — free training will be provided. Infant life vests are also available. Last year’s flotilla included about 50 canoes. Paddling opportunities stretch from the revitalized Starlight Park downstream to Concrete Plant Park and upstream as far as East Tremont Avenue.
More information: Bronx River Alliance
When: May 17 (Credit: Courtesy Bronx River Alliance/Malcolm Pinckney)
Hunts Point in the Bronx: A Village of Murals
Urban art makes some New York City neighborhoods feel like open-air museums. This walking tour of murals and public art in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx will visit notable works by artists such as visual artist Sharon de la Cruz and graffiti muralists Tats Cru. The tour also makes stops at the Female Festival honoring young women and at a photo exhibition at a new local gallery. The tour is organized by local community group The Point CDC and the Municipal Arts Society. Tickets are $15-$20.
More information: Municipal Arts Society
When: May 17 (Credit: NYCDOT)