Take a dip into ‘Art Bath,’ a revolutionary arts program popping up in Midtown

Art Bath performer Davone Tines bathed in blue light while performing
Davóne Tines was just one of the intriguing artists immersed in the Art Bath
Photo by Bob Krasner

In New York City, there is no shortage of new art coming at you in seemingly infinite varieties, and it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to attempt something unique — but the folks at Art Bath are giving it a shot.

A mix of performance art, film, music, dance and whatever else they can think of, the Art Bath performances are different each time and have built up a regular audience that always assures a sold-out house.

Previous shows have presented “more than 150 world-class artists,” from Grammy winners to downtown legends such as Joey Arias. The most recent production featured Anthony Roth Costanzo, who not only headlined but took over the curation of the show, along with Julia Eichten and Bret Easterling, who also performed.

Costanzo, as it happened, made time for the performances in the midst of preparing for his lead role in “Orfeo ed Euridice” at The Metropolitan Opera.

Art Bath is the brainchild of Mara Driscoll and Liz Yilmaz, who met as dancers at the Metropolitan Opera.

“We began producing performances together at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many artists were hungry for creative opportunities,” Driscoll recounts. “After arts venues reopened, we realized that there was continuing demand for an authentic, community-driven space where artists’ imaginations could run wild. It was the perfect moment to reinvent the tradition of the arts salon. We found the Blue Building, a former warehouse space in Midtown East, and the rest is history.”

More than simple entertainment, Driscoll and Yilmaz have a mission: “To foster community, exploration, and exchange to create fertile ground for forward-thinking artistic creation and experimentation” says Driscoll.

“We have grown a very strong artistic identity, both as an immersive event and in the curatorial style we bring to our work,” she adds. “Art Bath is really an art party where world-class artists feed off the electric energy of our highly diverse and eager audiences. We want to continue to grow this small but mighty platform and engage as many artists, audience members, and spaces as we can.”

Scenic Designer Anna DriftmierPhoto by Bob Krasner
(Most of) the cast and crew in the “Green Room” before showtimePhoto by Bob Krasner
Art Bath producers and co-founders Mara Driscoll and Liz YilmazPhoto by Bob Krasner
Anthony Roth Costanzo took a peek at the crowd before showtimePhoto by Bob Krasner
Phillip James Gonzales began the evening with a take on SisyphusPhoto by Bob Krasner

Costanzo envisioned this edition — titled “Art Is Gay”— as a meditation on the idea of “Myth,” and gave the artists a simple prompt with some deep possibilities.

“I asked them to think about the idea of myth in their life and to see how it resonates,” he said. “It was a huge success! Everyone surpassed what I expected.”

Audiences experienced the show in three different spaces, with breaks between each giving the patrons a chance to hit the bar and discuss.

Singer/songwriter Christine Hauer was suitably impressed with her visit to the Art Bath.

“I’m a first time Art Bath-er, and it’s truly mystical how many different feelings and personalities and auras they fit into one address,” she opined. “Constanzo’s ‘Man Who Got Away’ gave me the chills in the best way.”

Costanzo likes to leave room for interpretation, noting that, “I don’t think that you need any context to understand good art. It was at times abstract and indirect.”

At one point a disembodied voice intoned, “If everyone were gay, we wouldn’t need art,” which Costanzo laughed at as a “surreal, ridiculous aspect of the evening” but mentioned that it brought up a question: “is being gay a truth or an invention?”

While the dancing dinosaurs may not have helped to answer that question, they certainly were entertaining, as was Issa Perez, Juniper XX, Davóne Tines and Phillip James Gonzales.

Julia Eichten performed to music by Juniper XXPhoto by Bob Krasner
Julia Eichten performed to music by Juniper XXPhoto by Bob Krasner
Julia Eichten and Bret Easterling doing the very old soft shoePhoto by Bob Krasner
Issa Perez , the “tallest drag artist in New York City”, according to Issa PerezPhoto by Bob Krasner
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo filled the room with his extraordinary voicePhoto by Bob Krasner
Anthony Roth Costanzo got reflective in the show’s finalePhoto by Bob Krasner

The season closer on May 17 and 18 will again feature a wide variety of talent, including Baye & Asa, the movement art duo, Latin Grammy-winning bassist Pedro Giraudo and his quartet, physical theater and puppetry from Sophia Zukoski and the paintings of Ivan Alifan.

Art Bath will also dive into burlesque with a performance from international burlesque star TANSY, and a performance from multidisciplinary sound artist Cleo Reed.

Costanzo enjoyed the intimacy of a smaller venue than usual, noting that “opera began in small rooms.” He did have a hard time narrowing down the song selection, mentioning that he would have liked to further indulge his Barbra Streisand obsession and included “Sam, You Made The Pants Too Long.” (Maybe next time – we would love to hear that!)

At any rate, he mused that “Art Bath has unlimited potential,” while adding that, in the future, “I would like to see it incorporate food.”

Art Bath salons take place at the Blue Building, 222 East 46th St., between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Information about upcoming shows is available at artbathnyc.com and you can follow them on instagram at @artbathnyc.