Free in NYC


by Joanna Weinstein, 01/04/2012

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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.

January 4–10

Wednesday, January 4
Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings
Cheim & Read pays tribute to Joan Mitchell—known for her role in the legendary 1951 9th St. exhibition and for being a prominent member of the American Abstract Expressionist movement—with the show The Last Paintings. The exhibition is a collection of 13 works created from 1985 to 1992, during the last decade of Mitchell's life. Toward the end, Mitchell lost many friends and family members and also endured her own health struggles, fighting cancer. Although Mitchell used many vivid colors and vigorous strokes, she also left empty spaces on white canvas, perhaps symbolizing her own internal void. This distress is also visible in Mitchell's sunflower paintings, influenced by Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers. January 4 is the last day that the exhibition will be on view.

Thursday, January 5
Bethenny Frankel: A Place of Yes
The Skinnygirl Margarita mama is back, sans baby belly. On January 5 at 7pm, the Bravo star will discuss her latest book, A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life—which spent several weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list after its March debut and is now available in paperback—at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. Don't be so quick to dismiss Bethenny Frankel as just another reality-TV personality who fell backward into a book deal; her difficult childhood and bumpy path to success mean she has a worthy story to tell. Sample rules: "Break the Chain," her advice not to mimic our parents' mistakes and decisions, and "Find Your Truth," an invitation to discover what you truly want out of life (in Frankel's case, business success—not just a wealthy husband).

Friday, January 6
Paranormal Hallucinations
You needn't head to the movies to find "paranormal activity." You can see it live and in person in Williamsburg—and we aren't referring only to hipsters bringing back ghosts of fashion trends past with thick black frames and leggings. Pandemic Gallery's Paranormal Hallucinations brings together street art, science fiction, cartooning, tattooing, fine art and master shading from 16 different artists or collectives, with pen, ink and brush as unifying factors throughout the works. Featured artists include Peyote LLEW, Egyptian Jason, Deuce 7, Matt Crabe and Conrad Carlson. Expect anything and everything—from a "Swampy" hourglass to trippy spirals with Spin Art–esque coloring to haunting covers of the New York Post. The exhibition is up through January 7.

Saturday, January 7
Bargemusic's "Music in Motion" Neighborhood Family Concert
It's not every day you get to hear chamber music on a floating concert hall overlooking Manhattan for free—it's just every Saturday afternoon through February. In 1976, violinist and violist Olga Bloom turned a 100-foot steel barge and former vessel of New York Harbor into a stage whose cargo is beautiful music. Mahogany stripping and cherrywood benches from an old Staten Island Ferry line the venue, stationed at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Bargemusic program slate isn't announced until just before the show, but we guarantee you won't want to barge out until it's long over. The performance begins at 3pm and lasts one hour; the audience can participate in a Q&A with the musicians shortly thereafter. Be sure to arrive early, as seats are given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sunday, January 8
The Legend of "La Befana"
Many people believe the name Befana originated from the word "epifania," a Latin term with Greek origins, referring to the Epiphany. Christian legend has it that the Three Wise Men approached an Italian witch, Befana, a few days before the birth of Christ. She provided them with shelter for the night but declined the magi's offer to join them on their search for Jesus. Befana would later change her mind, but was unable to find Jesus. Some say her search for the baby continues to this day. Italian children celebrate the tale by leaving stockings for Befana to fill as she flies to each house on her broomstick on Epiphany Eve (January 5), the night before the Feast of the Epiphany, which is considered the 12th day of Christmas. She leaves toys and candy for good children and coal and garlic for the bad ones. On January 8, from 11am to 3pm, celebrate Befana with arts and crafts, storytelling and holiday refreshments at Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Buon Natale!

Monday, January 9
Monday-Night Trivia at The Gutter
Having your head in the gutter isn't always a bad thing. Every Monday, from 7 to 9pm, The Gutter, one of Williamsburg's popular bowling alley nightspots, hosts Trivia Night. The game includes five rounds, each with a different theme—such as movies, history or science—and the winners get a tab for bowling and beer. The Gutter's large selection of beers on tap includes Guinness stout and the spicy Allagash White. Celebrate a trivia victory or cope with a loss by hitting the lanes for the rest of the night—the bowling alley is open until 4am, and guests can enjoy a two-for-one bowling special after 1am. But leave the kids at home: The Gutter is a 21-and-older establishment.

Tuesday, January 10
Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was born in New York, grew up in both the United States and France, moved to Chicago and worked as a nanny on and off for more than 40 years. Before her death in 2009, she snapped 100,000-plus photos, many of daily life on the streets of New York City and Chicago from the 1950s to the 1970s, for no purpose other than her own curiosity. In 2007, real estate agent John Maloof discovered and acquired his first batch of Maier's negatives at an auction house in northwest Chicago, in a box that had been repossessed from a storage locker. Since then, Maloof has played a big role in reconstructing 90% of Maier's archive and categorizing it for future generations to appreciate. (You can view Maier's portfolios at Now through February 25, Steven Kasher Gallery displays more than 40 of Maier's black-and-white prints of ordinary people.

related venues/(5)

  1. 1
    Cheim & Read
    547 W 25th St
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10001
  2. 2
    Fulton Ferry Landing
    Brooklyn – DUMBO
    NY 11201
  3. 3
    Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
    1000 Richmond Terr.
    Staten Island – Randall Manor
    NY 10301
  1. 4
    The Gutter
    200 North 14th St
    Brooklyn – Williamsburg
    NY 11211
  2. 5
    Steven Kasher Gallery
    521 W 23rd St
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10011

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