New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a statewide festival to help usher in the safe return of live concerts. Dubbed NY PopsUp, the festival will take place over 100 days with more than 300 performances planned throughout the five boroughs.
Many of the events will be free to the public as the state attempts to jump-start the struggling live entertainment business alongside partners and producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development.
NY PopsUp is slated as a “pilot program” to help determine how to bring live performances back to the state that was once the epicenter of the pandemic. The festival will launch Feb. 20 and run through Labor Day on Sept. 6.
“Creative synergies are vital for cities to survive, and our arts and cultural industries have been shut down all across the country, taking a terrible toll on workers and the economy,” said Cuomo in a release. “We want to be aggressive with reopening the State and getting our economy back on track, and NY PopsUp will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions. New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts.”
The programming for NY PopsUp will be curated by the interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur, in partnership with a council of artistic advisors who represent the diversity of New York’s dynamic performing arts scene. The hundreds of free, pop-up events that constitute NY PopsUp will make stages out of New York’s existing landscapes, including iconic transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts and upstate venues.
On opening day, members of the artists council will lead a performance at the Javits Center as a special tribute to healthcare workers, featuring artists including Jon Batiste, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ayodele Casel and additional special guests. Throughout the day, the performers will travel around New York City, meeting audiences at various locations including at the footsteps of the Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital and St. Barnabas Hospital.
On Feb. 21, choreographer Garth Fagan‘s company will lead a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute to staff who have made it possible for RIT to stay open and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patti Smith will also be performing at the Brooklyn Museum in remembrance of the passing of artist Robert Mapplethorpe, while Chris Thile will host a new live radio show broadcast from stoops all over New York State, from Brooklyn and the East Village to the steps of Albany’s Empire State Plaza across from the Capitol building.
Events will conclude with the 20th Anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55, bringing the total number of performances to more than 1,000. Other confirmed artists for the various events include Hugh Jackman, Renée Fleming, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Q-Tip, Billy Porter, Aparna Nancherla, Dev Hynes, Jonathan Groff, Phoebe Robinson, Danielle Brooks, Idina Menzel and more.
The model that NY PopsUp builds for holding safe live events will pave the way for the reopening of multidisciplinary flexible venues (“flex venues”) throughout New York State to participate in the festival. These will be the very first indoor performances since the pandemic began and will mark a major moment in New York’s recovery efforts. The events will be a key step in the long process of getting tens of thousands of arts professionals around New York State back to work. These Flex Venues are established performance spaces without fixed seating, allowing them to be adapted for social distancing. Examples of these venues include The SHED, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La MaMa and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater. All indoor events will strictly follow Department of Health public health and safety guidance.
More details about NY PopsUp will be announced soon. Given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance.