A Part of the Main. Photo: Sarah Dahnke.

NYC FREE is the culmination of the statewide NY PopsUp

NYC FREE is four weeks of free programming featuring more than 460 artists and 160 performances, including 2 distinct performances in The Amph each night, and up to 7 free events 5 days a week

Tickets for NYC FREE performances in The Amph can be reserved at littleisland.org

Little Island, New York City’s new public park in Hudson River Park by W. 13th Street, announced details of NYC FREE, a month-long arts festival celebrating the creativity of New York City’s artists and the indomitable spirit of all its people. The city, defined by a wild and wonderful mix of cultures, is reflected in the adventurous programming selected and created by NYC based composers, musicians, choreographers, dancers, poets and writers, and comedians.

The festival celebrates, supports, and empowers artists to showcase their work—as performers, creators, and curators. The overarching artistic direction comes from Festival Producer Mikki Shepard who worked with Shoham Arad, Trina DasGupta, Georgiana Pickett, Eleanor Wallace, Hanako Yamaguchi, and a dynamic group of artists Tariq Al-Sabir, Ronald K. Brown, Dormeshia, Robert Garland & Misty Copeland, Alphonso Horne, Paolo Javier, Raquel Acevedo Klein, Georgina Pazcoguin, Conrad Tao, Adam Tendler, Awoye Timpo, Shirazette Tinnin, Eduardo Vilaro–– to curate this one-time festival.

“Given the dynamic nature of every space at Little Island, we believe it is the perfect place to host a month of free events that celebrate and amplify a multi-generational mix of innovative and distinctive artists. NYC FREE will further advance the mission of this inaugural season in bringing artists and audiences together for shared creative expression and a much-needed sense of community.” said NYC Free Senior Advisors, Stephen Daldry and George C. Wolfe. “We were thrilled to invite Mikki Shepard to serve as our Festival Producer and partner with us to realize this vision.”

“Artists, forever questioning how to work and engage with the public, continue to demonstrate the courage to take risks and adapt!,” said Mikki Shepard, Producer, NYC FREE. “My experience has shown me that through listening to artists and investing in their creative process and curatorial practices we can reflect on the past, stand up for what we believe in, offer hope, and reimagine a future that is safe and joyful for all New Yorkers.”

Brimming with a wide-ranging mix of pairings and programs, new works and surprising collaborations, each day has an eye towards discovery and ‘new-to-you’ artistic encounters. From the experimental to the traditional, popular to countercultural, each program reflects the many ways contemporary art responds to the times that it is made in. Experimental music, poets’ tours, site-specific dance, A-List comedy lineups, one-night-only jazz performances, and events that blur the boundaries of genre, animate the unique landscape and all of the performance spaces within the park.

The festival will launch on Wednesday, August 11, the final day of NY PopsUP, with a poignant performance of John Cage’s infamous 1952 work 4’33” at 11 AM performed by students of Third Street Music School Settlement and led by pianist Adam Tendler. This first performance of the festival is a moment of silence, acknowledging the New Yorkers lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the families, including nearly 5,000 children who lost a parent or guardian. Later that day, Beth Gill and a trio of dancers draws our attention to the comings and goings of people approaching the park in a new site-specific dance piece and pianist and vocalist Tariq Al-Sabir delves into a personal and collective exploration of the concept of ritual and ritualistic practices in the Glade. The first night of NYC FREE in The Amph shines a light on a broad range of contemporary dance forms by Jean Butler, James “Cricket” Colter with MariAnna Pintada Koystan, Shayla-Vie Jenkins with Juliette Jones, Kyle Marshall, Maile Okamura with Colin Jacobsen, Taylor Stanley with Ned Sturgis and ends on the energetic notes of Lakecia Benjamin & Soul Squad and DJ Eli Escobar.

Other NYC FREE highlights include an opening day dance program that will showcase a a broad range of contemporary dance forms against the stunning natural beauty of the Hudson River; new work featuring young African American dancers from American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem; commissioned new work by Devonté Hynes for String Orchestra of Brooklyn, digital audio experiences, tap duets & beat boxing, A Black Trans Pride variety show, a puppet opera and other morning activities for kids of all ages, Ballet Hispánico performing an evening of new dance by Latina choreographers, Late Night DJ and comedy sets, a special last night performance of all-women Jazz musicians and more!
The park wide festival will take place Wednesdays through Sundays from August 11 to September 5, 2021. The majority of festival programming is not ticketed and included with entrance to the park. All events in The Amph will be ticketed and free tickets can be reserved at littleisland.org today. ASL, audio description, and open captioning will be provided for select performances.

More about Mikki Shepard:
Mikki Shepard’s decades-long career as a producer for the Apollo Theater, BAM, and 651ARTS has consistently created opportunities for artists to develop and share their work. Her strong voice in support of innovative, unique performances has helped build new and reinvent existing institutions, programs and festivals and her vision for NYC FREE has been shaped by these endeavors and networks. Ms. Shepard has also served as an advisor to The Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Heinz Endowments, August Wilson African American Cultural Center and is a member of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation Boards of Directors. She won a 2017 NYC Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award, and was the first recipient of Arts Presenters Halsey and Alice North Award for Committed Excellence and Service to the Field (2014). For a full schedule of NYC FREE programming visit LINK TO COME.

Health and Safety Protocols for Ticketed Events

In accordance with current New York State and CDC guidelines, Both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests can attend events. Unvaccinated visitors will be required to wear their masks when they cannot maintain 6-feet of distance from others. Children under the age of 2 are not required to wear a mask.


While the majority of the NYC FREE events are included with your entrance to the park all events hosted in The Amph will require a free ticket reservation. A percentage of free tickets will be distributed to some of Little Island’s non-profit partners. All other free tickets will be available for reservation through Little Island’s website. All tickets are general admission.

All tickets will be electronic/mobile-only and are available for reservation now by visiting www.littleisland.org. There will be no tickets available to reserve on-site. Your ticket also serves as your timed entry reservation to the park.

Savory Hospitality will serve local and responsibly sourced food and beverage daily from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm. Little Island Food and Beverage is designed for all ages to explore the intersection between food and art in an environment that is welcoming, whimsical, playful, relaxing, and fun.

Sign-up for our mailing list at littleisland.org for park and programming updates.

Twitter & Instagram @LittleIslandNYC

About Little Island
Little Island is a new public park, primarily funded by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation with support from the City of New York, in Hudson River Park. The park features a lush, seasonal, landscape with rolling hills, walking paths and open lawns, and dazzling views of New York City. Little Island is one of the latest additions to the fourmile-long Hudson River Park, which runs from Chambers Street to W. 59th Street. Little Island has a 687-seat amphitheater, an intimate stage for 200 visitors, and an open plaza, all designed to host a range of programming for all ages, from theater, dance, and music to food and beverage experiences to educational programs and community events. Little Island provides New Yorkers, and its visitors, with a unique urban oasis—a place for experiences that ignite imagination, foster spontaneity and play, and support camaraderie and connection. www.littleisland.org.

About the Hudson River Park Trust
The Hudson River Park Trust is a partnership between New York State and City charged with the design, construction, and operation of the four-mile Hudson River Park. Both the Trust and the park itself are governed by the Hudson River Park Act, a 1998 law that established the park and its requirements. Guided by a vision for a magnificent waterfront park, the Trust continues to advance park construction and ensure the park’s future financial self-sufficiency by developing the remaining commercial nodes.

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