River to River Festival to return to Downtown Manhattan in June for 20th anniversary

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The 20th annual River to River Festival is returning to Manhattan this June.

Presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), Downtown New York City’s leading free summer arts festival will take place June 10-27. Co-curated by Lili Chopra, LMCC’s Executive Director of Artistic Programs, and Nanette Nelms, a NYC-based filmmaker with roots in performance and contemporary dance, the River to River Festival will put groundbreaking works on display while presenting opportunities for profound connections not just with the artists themselves but also with the city as it continues to emerge from the pandemic.

The festival will be made up of in-person outdoor performances at The Battery and indoor performances with strict COVID-19 protocols and online streaming options. This year’s line-up includes Arthur Jafa, esperanza spalding, Wayne Shorter, Black Gotham Experience featuring Kamau Ware and Rodney Léon, Okwui Okpokwasili, Miguel Gutierrez, The Illustrious Blacks, Maria Hassabi, nora chipaumire, Mariana Valencia, Meg Webster, Onyedika Chuke, Damon Davis, Muna Malik and more.

“This edition of River To River comes at a complex moment. As we were programming the Festival this past year, societally we were experiencing a sustained period of collective trauma, rife with incessant ideological, psychological and physical attacks, staggering loss, and an overwhelming sense of isolation,” says Nelms. “Yet slowly, through conversations with artists we care so deeply about, we found a common entry point: starting from a place of history. Kamau Ware profoundly inspired us with his extraordinary success in petitioning city officials to recognize Land of the Blacks, 28 Black-owned farmsteads that once covered a large part of Lower Manhattan. Mariana Valencia and nora chipaumire also unearth layers from the past in their work, giving much needed perspective to the present.”

“This year’s Festival offers a space to be with our emotions and ask timely questions of ourselves and others,” said Chopra. “The works by Damon Davis, Womxn in Windows and Maria Hassabi invite us to quietly sit in the present, to allow for intimate transformations to take place. At the same time, we recognize that this moment is an opportunity to come together in celebration and solidarity. We honor pioneers such as Wayne Shorter, esperanza spalding and Arthur Jafa and ultimately rejoice in artists continuing to lead the way, through participatory processions led by Miguel Gutierrez, Okwui Okpokwasili and The Illustrious Blacks.”

As a part of the festival, a multi-part video installation entitled Womxn in Windows will be placed in windows throughout the Seaport District. In the series, womxn from diverse cultural backgrounds will present video artworks that challenge society’s definition of femininity, redefining what it means to be a “womxn in a window.”

The River to River Festival will also include A Day at The Arts Center at Governors Island, where guests can attend day-long events and activations, including site-specific exhibitions by Meg Webster and Onyedika Chuke, a participatory sculpture by Muna Malik, Open Studios with LMCC artists-in-residence and ongoing screenings of Damon Davis’ film, “The Stranger.” Select performances and digital films in the Festival’s program will be streamed on LMCC’s website, LMCC.net.

The full line-up is expected to be announced soon. For more information, visit lmcc.net/river-to-river-festival.