Hugh Jackman, Renée Fleming, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Isabel Leonard, Nico Muhly, Joyce DiDonato, John Early and Kate Berlant, Patti Smith, Mandy Patinkin, Raja Feather Kelly, J’Nai Bridges, Kenan Thompson, Gavin Creel, Garth Fagan, Larry Owens, Q-Tip, Billy Porter, Conrad Tao, Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, Tina Landau, Rhiannon Giddens, Aparna Nancherla, Anthony Rodriguez, Jonathan Groff, Savion Glover, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chris Celiz, Christine Goerke, Kelli O’Hara, Dev Hynes, Phoebe Robinson, Sara Mearns, George Saunders, Caleb Teicher, Danielle Brooks, Jeremy Denk, Idina Menzel, Sondra Radvanovsky, Gaby Moreno, Davóne Tines, Jerrod Carmichael, Taylor Mac, Sutton Foster, Jessie Mueller, and Courtney ToPanga Washington ~ Did we get your attention yet? Welcome to #NYPopsUp, a festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances throughout the five boroughs and across New York State beginning February 20th.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the pop-up this week, which will include more than 300 pop-up events, serving as a bridge to a full safe return of live performance. The project is meant to jumpstart New York’s struggling live entertainment sector, and is a private/public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development. 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 project will launch on Saturday, February 20, 2021 and run through Labor Day, which will include the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55! This will bring the total number of performances to more than 1,000. This project will act as the state’s first large-scale model on how to bring live performance back safely after a COVID related shutdown, and will work in lock step with state public health officials, strictly adhering to Department of Health COVID-19 protocols.
“Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, and the economy will not come back fast enough on its own – we must bring it back,” Governor Cuomo said. “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. 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 events produced by NY PopsUp, in addition to being free of charge, will be staged across every type of neighborhood and district in all five boroughs of New York City, throughout Long Island and Upstate New York, and in all regions of the state. As the current realities of COVID-19 make mass gatherings and large, destination-style events impossible, NY PopsUp will meet New York City and State residents where they are, infusing their daily lives with the surprise and joy of live performance. 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, transforming everyday commutes, local communities, and locations never used for performances into canvases of awe and exhilaration. Instead of there being masses of audience members at a handful of events, this Festival is a mass of events, each for a safe and secure ‘handful’ of audience members.
As COVID restrictions begin to loosen, 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 open and 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. Not only will these indoor events be a symbol to the entire world that New York is back, they will also be a key step in the long process of getting tens-of-thousands of arts professionals around New York State back to work; and a bridge to getting Broadway and all of the New York cultural world open. These Flex Venues are established performance spaces without fixed seating and are thus able to be adapted for social distancing. Examples of these venues would 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.
The council of artistic advisors, who are all collaborating and co-curating NY PopsUp, is comprised of a unique group of New York’s premier artistic visionaries, all hailing from different disciplinary backgrounds and each a leader in their own field. These advisors are charged with inviting other artists to join the NY PopsUp community. The artists they engage will, in turn, engage their own networks, ultimately populating the festival with the broadest, most diverse coalition of performers ever united around a single mission. In short, NY PopsUp is being built by artists asking artists to participate.
The council includes renowned choreographer and MacArthur Fellow, Kyle Abraham; three-time Grammy Award nominated jazz musician, Jon Batiste; choreographer and Hoofer Award-winning tap dancer Ayodele Casel; Grammy Award nominated singer, actor, and international opera star, Anthony Roth Costanzo; the playwright of Slave Play, the most Tony Award nominated play in history, Jeremy O. Harris; Tony Award-winning set designer Mimi Lien; the legendary nine-time Grammy Award-winning musician, Wynton Marsalis; two-time National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet, essayist, and playwright, Claudia Rankine; Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist, Cécile McLorin Salvant; leading member of the Punch Brothers and four-time Grammy Award winner, Chris Thile; acclaimed “Saturday Night Live” writer, comedian, and actor, Julio Torres; and acclaimed director and musician, Whitney White.
Mr. Rudin and Ms. Rosenthal said, in a joint statement, “As two lifelong New Yorkers, it has been utterly devastating to see our creative community brought to an absolute standstill for a year. It’s inconceivable. We both spend our lives generating opportunities for artists, so we were both thrilled to be asked by Governor Cuomo to try to ignite a spark to bring art and performance back to life for the State. The passionate enthusiasm of every person we asked to join us in this incentive is going to make this a labor of both love and invention. We’re honored to be spearheading this campaign. Frankly, our most profound hope is that by the time NY PopsUp culminates on Labor Day, New York will be fully on the way to being reopened and revitalized and that this initiative, having served its purpose, will no longer be necessary. It’s the spark, not the fire — the fire is the complete return of all the arts, in their full glory, standing as they always have for the rich, emotional life of the city and state in which we both live.”
More details about NY PopsUp will be announced soon. Please note that, given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance. Check But here is a heads-up. The first performances will include, among others still to be announced, the following:
Beginning Saturday, February 20 (Opening Day), members of the artists council will lead a performance at the Javits Center as a special tribute to our healthcare workers. The performance will feature Jon Batiste, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ayodele Casel, and additional special guests joining forces for a one-of-a-kind live performance.
Throughout the day, the performers will travel around New York City, meeting audiences at various locations throughout all five boroughs in courtyards, workplaces, parks, and street corners, at the footsteps of locations such as, Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital, and St. Barnabas Hospital. Saturday will conclude with one of Jon Batiste’s signature Love Riots beginning at Walt Whitman Park and ending at Golconda Playground in Brooklyn.
On Sunday, February 21, legendary choreographer Garth Fagan’s company will lead a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute for the staff who have made it possible for RIT to stay open and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a few more events to look forward to:
Patti Smith performing at the Brooklyn Museum in remembrance of the passing of Robert Mapplethorpe.
Partnership with “Works & Process” at the Guggenheim, that will take brilliant new performances beyond the famed Rotunda to locations around the boroughs. These collaborations include George Gershwin’s anthem to New York City, Rhapsody in Blue, performed by New York’s own pianist and composer, Conrad Tao, with new choreography by Caleb Teicher; The Missing Element, a beatbox and street dance collaboration, featuring Chris Celiz and Anthony Rodriguez’s “Invertebrate”; and Masterz at Work Dance Family performing a brand-new dance by choreographer Courtney ToPanga Washington.
A series of performances in storefront windows, amplified out onto the street, from artists Gavin Creel, J’Nai Bridges, Davóne Tines, Bobbi Jene Smith, Or Schraiber, and more.
A new live radio show hosted by Chris Thile, 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.
A series of dynamic and participatory performances created by Ayodele Casel taking place in the lobbies of free museums throughout the City of New York, including the Brooklyn Museum and Queens Museum.
NY PopsUp, the Tribeca Film Festival, and The Festival at Little Island will together bring a total of more than 1,000 performances to New York State between February 20 and Labor Day, signaling an event unmatched in scale and unrivaled in scope.