Arts and Culture: Step Outside for Artistic Inspiration This Season

The Delacorte Theater. Photo credit: Joseph Moran.

By Barbara Bellesi

As the temperatures start to rise and daylight hours are getting longer, it’s time to start thinking outside of the (theatre) box when it comes to indulging your love of arts and culture. This season, get some fresh air and inspiration by attending one of the many outdoor events happening in and around the city. Here are a few ideas worth considering: 

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The Delacorte Theater. Photo credit: Joseph Moran.
The Delacorte Theater. Photo credit: Joseph Moran.

1. Shakespeare in the Park

“The Tempest” – May 27 through July 5 | “Cymbeline” – July 27 through August 23

Delacorte Theatre in Central Park

Just when you think Central Park is pretty darn great on its own, the Public Theater goes and produces two Shakespeare plays right in the middle of it. Now in its 53rd year, Shakespeare in the Park returns this summer to woo theatregoers of all ages with free tickets to a pair of the Bard’s plays. This year, the bill includes Cymbeline and The Tempest, the latter starring Academy Award-nominee Sam Waterston as “Prospero.”

There are three ways to get your free tickets to the spectacle:

Head to Central Park at noon on the day of your performance and wait in line for tickets;

Wait in line to pick up one of the limited vouchers available in all five boroughs (dates and ticket locations to be announced – check website for updates);

Skip the lines altogether and pay the $200 Summer Supporter membership fee to get reserved seats in the park, as well as a host of other perks and discounts during the regular season at the Public Theater.


2. Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

May 23-25 and May 30-31 – 12 pm – 6 pm

Washington Square Park and University Place

In the spring of 1931, Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning, both in desperate need of rent money, put some of their paintings on display in Washington Square Park in the hopes they could get something for their work. They got their much-needed funds and a whole lot more – the start of the twice-yearly Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.

Held for two weekends around Memorial Day and again for another two weekends around Labor Day, each exhibit promises work from local artists as well as artists from around the world. Art is displayed on sidewalks on and around University Place in Washington Square Park, not far from New York University. From noon to 6 p.m. each day, art lovers can peruse work that includes watercolors, photographs, sculptures, jewelry, ceramic, mixed media, and more. Cash prizes are awarded to top artists as selected by a panel of artist-judges.

3. Mother’s Day Weekend Garden Party

May 10-11 – 11 am – 5 pm

New York Botanical Gardens

A bouquet of flowers is always a nice thought for Mom on her special day, but how about a whole garden of them instead?

The New York Botanical Gardens hosts a Mother’s Day garden party that invites the entire family to come and celebrate Mom with live music, fun activities like kite flying and croquet, and a picnic on Daffodil Hill, featuring many delicious options for sale at the various food and snack trucks that park nearby for the day. Plus, you get to enjoy a relaxing weekend afternoon amidst some of the most beautiful flora you’ve ever seen.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 2-12 (little ones under 2 are admitted free).

4. Frieze New York

May 14 through May 17

Randall’s Island Park

Hop on the tram to Randall’s Island (a breezy four-minute ride), and get ready to explore a contemporary art gallery whose serpentine structure will wow you as much as the artwork within it. Over 1,000 artists from all over the world will showcase their work; the “Focus” section of the fair will display art that was specifically created for Frieze New York.

Hour-long tours are available for individuals and groups and are a wonderful way to become deeply immersed in the artistic milieu. With restaurants and cafes on site (advanced booking is available for visitors), you can plan to spend the whole day soaking it all in.

Tickets start at $10, and are limited and available only in advance through the website.

5. Celebrate Brooklyn in the Park

June 3 (kickoff concert)

Prospect Park

One of New York’s longest-running performing arts festivals, Celebrate Brooklyn! is a series of free outdoor events that attract around 250,000 attendees each summer. Established in 1979 as a way to revitalize tourism for Prospect Park, Celebrate Brooklyn! presents free concerts, dance and theatre performances, films, art shows, and more, featuring world-renowned performers as well as up-and-coming artists.

The one-and-only Chaka Khan kicks off the festival with a free concert at the Prospect Park Bandshell on June 3 at 8:15 p.m.

6. Make Music New York

June 21 – 10 am to 10 pm

All 5 boroughs (check website for schedule and locations)

Summers were made for music festivals, and what better day to host one than on the longest day of summer? On June 21, the 9th installment of the annual Make Music New York returns to the streets of all five New York City boroughs. Featuring over a thousand free concerts, there’s bound to be something for everyone’s musical tastes.

As you enjoy dancing in the streets in New York, you can feel at one with music lovers all around the world, as similar festivals will be held the same day in over 700 countries throughout the world.

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