Governor looks to reinvigorate struggling arts industry

Photo by Mike Groll, courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a series of performances and other artistic evets happening across New York, beginning Feb. 20, known collectively as the Popsup Festival. The “festival” will feature hundreds of pop-up performances, many of which are free of charge and all open to the public — that will intersect with the daily lives of New Yorkers, aimed at jumpstarting New York’s struggling live entertainment sector and serve as a “pilot program” for how to bring live performance back safely after the prolonged COVID-related shutdown.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the NY PopsUp festival on Monday in hopes of reigniting the performing arts industry across the state that has been shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival is meant to be an example of how New York can bring back live performances post-pandemic.

The festival will feature hundreds of pop-up performances across the state that will adhere to public health guidelines and be open and free of charge to the public as well as streamed online. Performers include a wide-ranging array of artists like Patti Smith, Chris Rock, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Kenan Thompson and Amy Schumer, among others.

The inaugural Feb. 20 performance will be held at the Javits Center in New York City and serve as a tribute to frontline health care workers. Performers for that event include Jon Batiste, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Ayodele Casel. The festival will conclude with The Festival at Little Island, the opening of a public park on the Hudson River which will host 325 performances by 500 artists from Aug. 11 to Sept. 5.

The NY PopsUp festival will include the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival in June, which was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff to revitalize lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

“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,” said Gov. Cuomo, emphasizing that creative synergies are vital for cities. “NY PopsUp will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions.”

The NY PopsUp festival will meet New Yorkers where they live, creating stages for surprise performances out of parks, subway platforms, fire escapes, parking lots and street corners. The festival will also hold the first indoor performances in New York since the pandemic began by putting on events in “flex venues,” or places where social distancing can be adapted. Indoor venues include The SHED, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La MaMa and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater.

The council of artistic advisors for the festival, who are in charge of collaborating and co-curating the events, are made up entirely of New York artists including musician Jon Batiste and comedian Julio Torres.

“Having artists call on other artists as a means to build this festival’s giant creative community will spur opportunities for wild, bold, and intimate collaborations that would never otherwise have been possible,” said programming curator Zack Winkour. “Ultimately, this Festival is about using art as a means of reestablishing human connection. With NY PopsUp, there is no mediating force between artist and artist, or artist and audience. It’s humans in direct contact with each other, and the context of this particular moment will make that connection all the more profound.”

New York has had nearly 1.5 million cases and more than 36,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the New York State Department of Health. Over one million residents have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine while over 500,000 have received their second dose. 2,808,825 doses have been delivered to distribution sites across the state since Dec. 14.

“A city provides cultural and creative synergies,” said Gov. Cuomo. “That’s what makes a city a city.”

“New York leads and we’re going to continue to lead in bringing back the arts.”