The unsinkable River To River rises, again

Photo by Stephanie Berger Every year, a glorious noise: River to River favorite Bang on a Can opens the festival with a nine-hour super mix of boundary-busting music.
Photo by Stephanie Berger
Every year, a glorious noise: River to River favorite Bang on a Can opens the festival with a nine-hour super mix of boundary-busting music.

Down by the water and in the streets, 150+ events at 28 sites 

BY MAEVE GATELY  |  Every time spring turns to summer, it seems as if the promotional material for every musical performance, theatrical presentation, art exhibit, reading or family activity in Lower Manhattan boasts the same familiar phrase: “Part of the River To River Festival.”

The mostly outdoor and completely free series, which long ago had art down to a science, has designed its first post-Sandy installment to function as a homecoming for displaced artists — as well as a reminder to audiences that the area’s energy and vitality wasn’t washed away, or even slightly waterlogged, by the physical destruction of last October’s superstorm.

When asked whether the ongoing struggle to rebuild this area has impacted the event, Sam Miller (president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which sponsors the festival) said, “What has compounded the personal and professional losses for both artists and organizations, particularly in the areas most severely damaged, has been the loss of community, of home in that wider neighborhood sense.” As restaurants and stores closed, he went on to explain, the area struggled to recover psychologically. That’s why this time around, River To River hopes to bring back more than foot traffic.

“We will be providing activities and events that engage residents, workers and visitors in the hardest hit districts, particularly along the Water Street and South Street corridors, that we hope will generate a sense of excitement and interest in the area,” said Miller, adding that, “The festival will remind people of what a magical place Lower Manhattan is to work, play, learn, eat, shop and experience art.” That there was any festival at all, let alone one whose physical reach and formidable roster equals that of years past, only happened “with the support of stakeholders in the neighborhood.”

This year’s event will focus more closely on the processes by which the artists create their work, and not simply the works themselves. Open rehearsals and studio visits will allow visitors a glimpse into the ways in which a painting, sculpture or song is created. But before you go pulling the curtain back to see what makes a River To River artist tick, give the analytic part of your brain a break and just enjoy the beat.



An all-ages event on Sunday, June 16, 1-10pm. At the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts (3 Spruce Street).

A feat to witness and a joy to endure, this culture-blending, genre-busting musical marvel returns, with its traditional non-stop, nine-hour compilation of musical styles from across the world. The group, which is celebrating its 26th year, began as a one-day marathon concert in 1987. It’s since grown to include a variety of active and innovative programs and approaches — including residencies for musicians in developing countries (partnering with the State Department), a summer music festival for young composers, Asphalt Orchestra and an aggressively creative street band.

This year’s marathon will include performances by Alarm Will Sound, Talk Normal, Asphalt Orchestra and Hans Abrahamson.



June 15 through July 14. From 8am-6pm. Weekdays, at One Liberty Plaza.

Many of the shops at South Street Seaport are still closed, and the memory of the overwhelming power of Superstorm Sandy lingers. With this in mind, four New York artists will examine the city’s relationship with water in an exhibition commissioned by Arts Brookfield. David Baskin, Jason Head, Wyatt Nash and Emily Sartor will present their own interpretation of this shared theme, drawing from their backgrounds as painters and sculptors to bring color and life to an otherwise dark part of the city’s recent past.



An all-ages event on Friday, June 21 at 12pm, 12:30pm & 1pm. At Brookfield Place Plaza, 220 Vesey Street, One New York Plaza and Zuccotti Park.

New York City is, in so many ways, where the saxophone found its first and truest home. From the jazz clubs of 1920s to the work of Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker and Jimmy Heath, to the backing tracks of many Frank Sinatra songs — the saxophone has had a love affair with this city.

A co-presentation with Arts Brookfield, as part of Make Music New York, “The Jazz Saxophone” is a musical tribute to this soulful instrument. Three 15-minute sets in three different locations will feature hip voices from the contemporary jazz scene. Come celebrate the perfect fusion of lively jazz and a lazy summer afternoon, and let the wail of the sax take you back — or forward.


June 18-22. A film/mixed media, interactive, literature/spoken word and music event, at various locations.

NASA’s first artist-in-residence isn’t resting on that 2003 laurel. The uncategorizable, unpredictable and prolific Laurie Anderson brings her decades of experience as a multimedia artist, musician and cultural analyst to the job of River to River Guest Curator.

On June 18 and 19, two 7pm Rockefeller Park concerts, “The Language of the Future,” have Anderson’s group of handpicked writers and performers exploring how time functions in their work. The first performance will focus on stories, the second on songs — as Anderson attempts, to “create a floating atmosphere that extends the summer evening and makes it all the more dream-like and timeless.”

Over the next three nights, Anderson will present a series of projects that demonstrate her interest and investment in fellow writers, directors, theatre and visual artists working in and around New York City — including a June 22 multimedia performance by Brooklyn-based performer and interactive-electronics artist Andrew Schneider. It takes place at 9pm, on Pier 15 (East River Esplanade). Expect the unexpected — but plan for plenty of “strobe lights and loud music.”


All across Lower Manhattan
June 15 through July 14
For a schedule of events & more info, visit rivertorivernyc.com