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What to do in Brooklyn in spring 2014
When the Beastie Boys sang "No sleep till Brooklyn" in 1987, it put the borough of Kings on the map as the hot destination for all things cool.
And things have only gotten better. With a world-class sports and music arena, tons of restaurants frequented by foodies from all over and cultural activities like a world-class art museum and botanic garden, Brooklyn is no longer just the hip new upstart from across the river.
Here's a curated list of what to look forward to this spring, from the annual cherry blossom festival to protest art from the tumultuous Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s.
Witness: Art and Civil Rights In the Sixties
Back when African-Americans faced beatings and arrests for expressing themselves in public demonstrations, some used art to express the struggle for equal rights. Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties brings the work of 66 artists - among them Robert Indiana, Norman Rockwell and the Spiral group of African-American artists in New York - to the Brooklyn Museum.
The show, created to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “explores the telling intersection of art and activism on behalf of the struggle for racial equality,” write the curators in the preface of the exhibition catalog. Featuring pop art, photography, minimalist works and abstract paintings as well, there is something for all tastes.
When: March 7 to July 6
More Info: Brooklyn Museum's exhibition page (Credit: "City Limits," a 1969 painting by Philip Guston/The Estate of Philip Guston)
Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival
The beat of the streets in a borough like Brooklyn is as diverse as those you'll find on any jazz record you'll find. Billed as the city's “longest continually running grassroots festival dedicated to jazz,” this musical celebration includes more than 50 events featuring more than 500 artists, including local masters like Lou Donaldson. What started out 15 years ago as a nine-day event at venues in neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Fort Greene is now a month-long series spreading from Coney Island to Williamsburg. Even with this expansion, the focus remains on promoting live music to generally underserved communities.
“It’s a great thing because everybody can come together around the language of jazz,” said Bob Myers, this year’s festival coordinator.
When: March 28 to April 30
More Info: Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium (Credit: PS 3-Bedford Village Ensemble at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2013/Kathyrn Kirk)
Copy of Emancipation Proclamation Signed By Lincoln
Time is running out to see a rare copy of one of the most famous documents in U.S. history, signed by the pen of one of the most beloved presidents in U.S. history. The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Mr. Lincoln himself, will be on display at the Brooklyn Historical Society until sometime in mid-April. “We have no plans right now to put it up again,” said Meredith Duncan, a spokeswoman for the society. A high-quality facsimile will take its place, but it just won't be the same. Bonus for those who go: The society just opened a new exhibit on Brooklyn abolitionists to give some local history and context to the groundbreaking document.
When: Through mid-April
More Info: Brooklyn Historical Society (Credit: Brooklyn Historical Society/Willie Davis)
Cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Break out your craziest cosplay costumes and Kill Bill fantasies and get yourself to the Sakura Matsuri -- cherry blossom festival -- at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this spring. Anita Jacobs, director of public programs at the Garden, says that in recent years the festival has attracted an increasing number of fans of Japanese manga comics and cosplay, where people dress up as Japanese pop culture characters. “What’s kind of cute is that cosplayers spend a year putting together their costumes,” she said. Pop culture and tradition mix throughout the two-day event. Fashion shows will feature cosplay as well as traditional kimono dress. Tea ceremonies will be hosted by a nonagenarian Japanese expert and Ryukyu Chimdon Band will perform j-pop while parading, Okinawa-style. But the main attraction, of course, are the flowers. With more than 220 trees and 66 varieties, BBG is a destination for Japanese travelers who spend the season on the cherry blossom festival circuit. Admission is $20 for adults; $15 for students/seniors; and free for children under 12.
When: April 26 and 27
More Info: Brooklyn Botanical Garden (Credit: Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden/Michael Ratliff)
Brooklyn Zine Festival
If you've long yearned to join the hipster zeitgeist, now is your chance with the Brooklyn Zine Festival. Zines, a lot like artisanal pickles, are lovingly hand-made in small batches by passionate autodidacts with equally passionate readers. Event co-organizer Matt Carman, 29, calls the fest a “craft fair with self-published magazines.” This year, the event expands to two days and moves to a more spacious location at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Each day will feature a unique mix of the 150 exhibitors. Also look for the addition of panel discussions, including one on “zine libraries.” If one weekend of zine excitement isn't enough for you, the event gets a warm-up on Friday, April 25, with “Brain Frame,” where zine creators get to perform their craft for a live audience. The festival is free and open to all ages. Brain Frame tickets are $8.
When: April 26 and 27
More Info: Brooklyn Zine Festival (Credit: Courtesy Brooklyn Zine Festival/Steve McFarland)
Lyon Opera Ballet
Seriously, who can say no to post-modern French ballet? If you've never experienced it before, Christian Rizzo, a French choreographer whose beguiling productions have made him a darling of dance aficionados around the world, will give a rare performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the U.S. debut of his enigmatic piece, “ni fleurs, ni-ford mustang.” Produced by the Lyon Opera Ballet, the work is rife with visual riddles, lighting effects, music and movement. The show is presented as part of the three-week DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance and Ideas. Just think of the cocktail-party cred you'll get with this ticket stub in your pocket. Tickets are $20-$50.
When: May 7-9
More Info: Brooklyn Academy of Music (Credit: Michel Cavalca)
Norwegian culture at the 17th of May Parade
Who doesn't think of Norwegian immigrants when they hear South Brooklyn? Bay Ridge recalls its past as a beacon for Norwegian immigrants with the 17th of May parade, where participants don plastic horned viking hats and travel in viking-ship floats down the neighborhood's main commercial thoroughfares, once home to thousands of immigrants from Norway and known as Little Oslo. But there are few traces of Scandinavian culture in the neighborhood these days. The 17th of May is recognized as Constitution Day in Norway.
When: May 18
More Info: 17th of May Parade Committee (Credit: Flickr/vipnyc/Creative Commons)