Free in NYC


by staff, 12/21/2011

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There's always something exciting to do and see around the five boroughs that doesn't cost a dime. See our weekly picks below, and visit our calendar and special offers section for more free events.

December 22, 2011–January 3, 2012

Thursday, December 22
Lola Montes Schnabel: Love Before Intimacy 
The Hole presents new works by Lola Montes Schnabel, artist and actress and daughter of artist and director Julian Schnabel. Love Before Intimacy includes five paintings that depict, as the gallery notes, "a narrative of androgynous youth encountering each other on a remote Greek island." The story begins with innocence and ends in ecstasy. Schnabel works in a dreamy palette of only five paint colors and with materials like asphalt, plaster weld and copper plating. 

Friday, December 23
A Sesame Street Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens at 200 
Oscar the Grouch plays the Ebenezer Scrooge character in this version of the Charles Dickens holiday classic, which, of course, celebrates transformation and the true meaning of Christmas. The timeless tale, first published in 1843, has never been out of print and has been adapted for countless theater, radio, television and film specials. (The Sesame Street take handles the ghost situation in a way that's appropriate for young ones.) The screening begins at 11:30am at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. (Another showing will take place on December 22, should you not be able to make it to the Friday event.) Reservations for screenings here can be made on the Monday of the week of the showing by calling 212-833-8100. Remaining tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes before the start of the screening. Continue your Dickens-themed day with an evening visit to The Morgan Library & Museum, where the original handwritten manuscript for A Christmas Carol is on view as part of Charles Dickens at 200. Admission to the institution is free on Fridays from 7 to 9pm. 

Saturday, December 24
Free Admission to the Guggenheim
Each Saturday, from 5:45 to 7:45pm, entry to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is pay-what-you-wish (with the last ticket issued at 7:15pm). Stop by on Christmas Eve to see the popular exhibition Maurizio Cattelan: All. The first retrospective of Maurizio Cattelan showcases approximately 130 works, examples of almost everything the artist has created since 1989. Cattelan has been hailed as a provocateur and prankster, and while his pieces do exemplify a marked sense of humor, mortality is the recurring theme. Included in the installation are Daddy Daddy (2008), where Pinocchio floats facedown in the fountain on the institution's rotunda floor, perhaps after falling from the ramps above, and Now (2004), which depicts a serene, barefoot John F. Kennedy lying in state. 

Sunday, December 25
Coney Island Polar Bear Club Christmas Day Swim 
The country's oldest winter bathing organization, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, invites members to take a dip in the icy Atlantic Ocean every Sunday from November through April. And since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, they'll be hopping in for the holiday. Strip down and join the swim, which starts at 1pm, or simply show up to watch the daredevils dive in.

Monday, December 26
USA-Japan Goodwill Concert 
Japan's Kagoshima Joho High School Wind Orchestra, conducted by Isao Yabiku, and the No Borders Youth Chorus, whose 160-plus singers are from all over the United States and Canada and conducted by Joe Cerutti, will play a concert at Carnegie Hall on Monday at 8pm. They will perform such pieces as Giuseppe Verdi's La Forza del Destino and Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor. Admission is free, but tickets are required; visit the Carnegie Hall box office, or fill out this online form to request tickets and pick them up on the day of the performance. 

Tuesday, December 27
Lucien Clergue, Jean Cocteau: Testament of Orpheus
In 1959, legendary French filmmaker, poet and artist Jean Cocteau gave his photographer friend Lucien Clergue free rein to document the making of his final film, Testament of Orpheus, which Cocteau wrote, directed and starred in. As they filmed throughout France for six weeks, life became a dream for the young photographer. "Man-horses, man-dogs, the Sphinx, the goddess Minerva, and mythological figures such as Oedipus, Orpheus, and Tiresias were all living with us, talking, eating, and drinking like us…." Clergue wrote in his book Jean Cocteau and the Testament of Orpheus. "Cocteau kept telling us the poet—like the phoenix—must die in order to be reborn." And Cocteau died four years later. Westwood Gallery presents the US debut of this collection of surreal gelatin silver prints. 

Wednesday, December 28
Thomas Campbell: Capture and Release
Thomas Campbell, a painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker and skateboarder, is one of those guys who's so multitalented that he makes the rest of us look lazy. That's OK, though, considering that he's willing to share: up now at Lower East Side art destination Half Gallery is Capture and Release, the California-based artist's latest show, a collection of recent paintings, sculpture and, as the gallery notes, "sewn paper stuff." If you like what you see, you can also check out Campbell's freshly completed mural at LES bar Max Fish, which is a short walk away.

Thursday, December 29
Free Admission to the Museum of Chinese in America 
Every Thursday, Target picks up the tab for admission to the Museum of Chinese in America, the expansive Chinatown institution that for the past three decades has used oral histories, video, photographs and written documents to bring to life the experiences of this vibrant immigrant community. The institution's dramatic home—which opened in 2009 and was designed by acclaimed artist and architect Maya Lin, who also created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—features reclaimed-wood floors, a skylit atrium enclosed by rough-hewn bricks and the Journey Wall, whose bronze tiles each highlight the Chinese place of origin and present-day US location of donors' families. Current exhibitions include Lee Mingwei: The Travelers and The Quartet Project and With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America.

Friday, December 30
Children's Naturalist Program: Squirrels Are Super! 
Kids ages 4 to 7 will be both educated and entertained at this outdoor workshop in the Heather Garden of Fort Tryon Park. From 10 to 11am, Julia Attaway will talk about squirrels, teaching young ones about the furry little creatures, why Fort Tryon Park in particular is an ideal environment for the animals and, doubtless, that chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore are, in fact, part of the squirrel family (the CGI branch). 

Saturday, December 31
Times Square Ball Drop 
Count down to 2012 with the annual Times Square Ball Drop and catch live music and other fun activities leading up to the midnight hour. With all the revelry, it's best to get there as soon as possible; street closures start midafternoon, and the choicest spots are usually filled by 3pm or earlier. Note: along with the usual tomfoolery (courtesy of Ryan Seacrest), attendees can expect to see performances by Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. For more information on what to expect during the festivities (along with some helpful tips), read our guide.

Sunday, January 1
Morning Bird Walk: Bring in the New Year with Birds
Earlyish risers can take in the first day of 2012 with Prospect Park's wintering ducks on this guided tour led by the Brooklyn Bird Club. After meeting at the Audubon Center at the Boathouse at 10am, bird lovers will have the opportunity to spot aquatic fauna as they explore the park's easy-to-hike Lullwater and Peninsula Nature Trails. Consider it a peaceful (if admittedly ambitious) way to start the year.

Monday, January 2
The Taylor Mead Show
As a Beat poet, Andy Warhol superstar and one of the last living links to the hipster titans of the mid–20th century, Taylor Mead has certainly done enough to earn his retirement. Of course, artists never retire, and that's certainly the case for Mead, who was recently the subject of an exhibition at Lower East Side art space Half Gallery (the guys there know what they're doing—see the Thomas Campbell show listing above). He performs every Monday at 6:30pm at the Bowery Poetry Club; expect spoken word and a convivial atmosphere. Bonus LES art tip: check out the mural around the block from the Bowery Poetry Club at the corner of Bowery and East Houston Street. The space—which has previously been the site of works by artists like Keith Haring, Barry McGee and Shepard Fairey—currently hosts the work of Brooklyn-based art collective Faile, featuring the duo's signature pulpy graphics and wildly colorful sentiments.

Tuesday, January 3
I Am the Billy Childish
British polymath Billy Childish has had a long and storied career in which he's released a staggering amount of music, created pointed works on film and on paper and been an influence on artists like Tracey Emin and Stella Vine. I Am the Billy Childish, at the Lehmann Maupin gallery on the Lower East Side, is a survey of his recent works—paintings of pastoral landscapes juxtaposed with images of volcanoes and mountain-climbing scenes, inspired by mountaineer Toni Kurz, who died in 1936 while attempting to climb the Eiger, a peak in Switzerland's Bernese Alps. Those who are more interested in Childish's music and writing, however, should note that the exhibition also includes 50 of his albums and a collection of his poetry and books. 

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Belvedere Castle
    Central Park, midpark at 79th St
    Manhattan – Central Park
  2. 2
    The Hole
    312 Bowery
    Manhattan – SoHo
    NY 10012
  3. 3
    Sony Wonder Technology Lab (now closed)
    550 Madison Ave.
    Manhattan – Midtown East
    NY 10022
  1. 4
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    1071 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128
  2. 5
    Coney Island Boardwalk
    Boardwalk and W 8th St
    Multiple Locations
    NY 11224
  3. 6
    Carnegie Hall
    57th St. and Seventh Ave.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  1. 7
    Half Gallery
    208 Forsyth St
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  2. 8
    Museum of Chinese in America
    215 Centre St.
    Manhattan – multiple locations
    NY 10013
  3. 9
    Fort Tryon Park
    Fort Tryon Park
    Manhattan – Washington Heights
    NY 10040

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