Free This Week


by Christina Parrella and Jeremy Lehrer, 03/26/2014

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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 deals section for more free events.

March 26–April 1

Wednesday, March 26
Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Where: Lower East Side Tenement Museum
When: 6:30pm
Alice Hoffman’s latest work of fiction, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, tells of the relationship between a Russian immigrant turned photographer (a recent escapee from an Orthodox Jewish community) and a young woman who performs as a mermaid in a Coney Island boardwalk freak show. Set in 1911, when fires ravaged two NYC locations—the first at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the second at Coney Island's Dreamland amusement park—the novel conveys the pervasive foreboding of the time and how two very different people found love against this backdrop. The author will discuss her work alongside historian Suzanne Wasserman. Seats for the event are first-come, first-served, but you can reserve two spots by purchasing the book.

Thursday, March 27
"Poking Fun: Political Puns and Social Satire in the Genre Paintings of William Sidney Mount"
Where: King Manor Museum
When: noon–2pm
Best known for his genre and portraiture paintings, William Sidney Mount produced work that also reflected political, social and economic events during the mid-19th century. Employing both direct and indirect imagery, Mount addressed issues including the abolition of slavery, political deviousness and the battle between the sexes—all of which he satirized with subtle references in his paintings. At this event, educator Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan will discuss the layers of Mount’s humor, as well as the political and social context that shaped his work.

Friday, March 28
Rock and Roll: An Infantile Business with Wesley Stace, Walter Martin and Sam Lipsyte
Where: Housing Works
When: 7pm
In his guise as the folk singer John Wesley Harding, Wesley Stace has had a successful musical career for over two decades. Musician Walter Martin has long been an indie rock crush for his role in the Walkmen. With new projects, the two explore heartfelt areas of their craft and personal experience. Stace's fictional book Wonderkid tells the story of a punk-influenced band that achieves unexpected popularity in the children's music genre; the narrative captures the antics of a lead singer who is himself still acting out, even as he takes on the responsibilities of parenting an adopted child. Martin's first solo album, We're All Young Together (due out May 13), charmingly evokes romance and life's sweet stuff in songs suited for both kids and adults—a project inspired in part by Martin's newfound role as father. At this event, the musicians and author Sam Lipsyte will discuss the projects and the real-life influences that shaped them.

Saturday, March 29
"Birth of the Bronx"
Where: Bronx Archives Building, Bronx County Historical Society
When: 1pm
The Bronx County Historical Society maintains a repository of the borough's history: letters, personal histories, newspapers and ephemera. Visitors can arrange to see the archive as well as other locations that the organization operates, such as the cottage where Edgar Allan Poe lived during his last years. The Bronx is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year: in 1914, it was the last area in New York state to be recognized as a county. At this centennial event, BCHS educator Angel Hernandez will present an illustrated show on the early history of the borough.

Sunday, March 30
Free Garment District Neighborhood Walking Tour
Where: Northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and 39th Street
When: 2pm
The Garment District is a neighborhood with a rich history: it served as the locus of America's fashion industry for many years, with clothes designed and sewn throughout its buildings. Though there is less sartorial activity here now than in the area's golden years, some businesses remain along with traces of the days gone by. During this tour, led by Mike Kaback and lasting 90 minutes to two hours, you can learn more about the neighborhood's background and importance. In addition to exploring historic sites, you might visit a private showroom, a sample sale and the store Mood Designer Fabrics. The tour is free, but reservations are required; make them by emailing

Monday March 31
Bright! Color in Three Dimensions
Where: One Liberty Plaza, Lobby
When: 8am–6pm
This exhibition showcases six artists whose sculptural pieces place color center stage. Benjamin Dowell's Totem (Kale, Brick, and Steak) suggests a neon rocket-cum-building. A quilt by Courtney Puckett is sewn together from bright swatches of fabric. Charles Dunn's Hallowed Skull, Equipable, 14 Defense Against Radiation, 10% Critical Strike Chance looks like a scientific cross section gone wonderfully awry. These sculptural forms reveal both humor and artistry while showing off new techniques that artists use to render color and form.

Tuesday April 1
Bette Midler,
 A View from a Broad
Where: Barnes & Noble Union Square
When: 7pm
Bette Midler is a comedienne, actress, performer and diva par excellence. She has won several Grammy awards, a special Tony award and two Oscar nominations in addition to inspiring an almost religious fervor among her fans. I'll Eat You Last, her one-woman play on Broadway last year, generated critical acclaim and massive audience turnouts (if not a Tony nomination), and her performance on this year's Academy Awards proves that this star has staying power. In her book A View from a Broad, Midler recounts her experiences during a European tour that took place in the late 1970s. True to Divine Miss M form, her observations veer from outrageous to incisive. The book was originally published in 1980 and is now being reissued by Simon & Schuster. At this event, Midler will read an excerpt; arrive early if you want a seat. 

related venues/(5)

  1. 1
    Lower East Side Tenement Museum
    103 Orchard St.
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  2. 2
    King Manor Museum
    150-03 Jamaica Ave
    Queens – Jamaica
    NY 11432
  3. 3
    Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
    126 Crosby St.
    Manhattan – SoHo
    NY 10012
  1. 4
    The Bronx County Historical Society
    3309 Bainbridge Ave.
    NY 10467
  2. 5
    Barnes & Noble Union Square
    33 E. 17th St.
    Manhattan – Union Square
    NY 10003

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