Seven Picks a Week is our guide to what’s worth catching in arts, culture and activities during the week ahead, with contributions from reporters throughout the WNYC/Gothamist newsroom and colleagues from WQXR and "All of It."
Visit a show of breathtaking historic photographs before it closes
For decades pioneering photographer Kwame Brathwaite diligently chronicled the expansive world of Black life in black and white pictures. His first major retrospective, “Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” is now on view at the New-York Historical Society, and it closes on Jan. 15. Born in New York City, Brathwaite became invested in photography after seeing the gruesome images of Emmett Till in a 1955 issue of Jet. Over the course of his career, he captured images of everyday Black people and major figures like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Nelson Mandela. He’s best known for popularizing the phrase “Black Is Beautiful,” coined to celebrate Black beauty in direct opposition to Eurocentric beauty standards. The exhibition, which is accompanied by an audio tour and a Spotify playlist, features 40 studio portraits and behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community.
– Precious Fondren
Take the kids to meet a beloved anthropomorphic train
If your youngest family members have fallen under the sway of the charismatic blue steam engine with a frighteningly large face, then you’re gonna want to choo-choo-choose to take a trip to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Thomas the Tank Engine is the star of an interactive, musical mini-performance at NYBG over the next three weeks – plus, you can get a photo with him after the show. Get info on schedules and tickets here. You can make a whole day out of it by also checking out the Garden’s fantastic annual Holiday Train Show (which runs through Jan. 16). And if you’re still there by the time it gets dark out, there’s the NYBG GLOW light show happening for only two more dates (Jan. 7 and 14).
– Ben Yakas
Love “Yellowstone?” See real-life cowboys in action
About 750 tons of dirt will be dumped into Madison Square Garden this week, when the Professional Bull Riders kick off a three-day event in the Big Apple. The competition is fast and fierce, and, to quote the PBR: “the first step is just staying on the bull [...] There is only one cowboy, one bull and eight desperate seconds.” There will be an opening ceremony with pyrotechnics, loud music and props. And each night will be emceed by a rodeo clown. The event runs from Friday, Jan. 6 through Sunday Jan. 8 and you can learn more at the PBR website.
– Kerry Shaw
Celebrate Brooklyn's most twisted glam nightclub with classic DJs
The old Hunter S. Thompson adage that "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" can be applied to the folks who run Brooklyn's House of Yes. Though the globally famous and deeply queer-friendly cabaret-inspired nightclub is officially celebrating its seventh birthday this weekend, its roots in the borough's alternative nightlife scene actually stretch back much further, when founders Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova ran multiple demented, rave-circus spaces under that name. Thankfully, legitimacy hasn't reeled back the twisted-flash ambiance, and it’s actually helped to expand the great music bookings. The House of Yes anniversary weekender features two DJs essential to New York's dance-music history: Friday, Eli Escobar, one of the best disco-house selectors we’ve got now, plays all night long; and Saturday includes a special set by the legendary Tony Humphries, one of the creators of the New York radio mastermix. (Saturday night bonus music will come from Crystal Waters, singer of such smash house-music hits as "100% Pure Love" and "Gypsy Woman.") It’s a perfect opportunity to get weird and glam, and you can learn more here.
– Piotr Orlov
See what was, is and will be in a career-spanning Nick Cave exhibition
The title of Nick Cave’s new Guggenheim Museum show is a word made of three words – it is called “Forothermore.” The career-spanning show is separated into three sections with the themes “What It Was,” “What It Is” and “What It Will Be.” What you will find is a multitude of mediums: metal, sequins, feathers and even his late grandfather’s tools, used to make sculptures and installation pieces that tell stories about Black bodies, recent history and his own family story. Nick Cave and Guggenheim deputy director and chief curator Naomi Beckwith appeared on Thursday’s episode of “All of It” to tell us about the show, which runs through April 10; learn more about it here.
– Alison Stewart and Luke Green, “All of It”
Hear a world premiere featuring Rhiannon Giddens
Get your tickets as soon as possible for “Songs in Flight,” a world premiere that “promises to question the notions of liberty and freedom that our country holds so dear.” The art-song initiative Sparks & Wiry Cries assembled a powerful creative team and ensemble of artists – including the always amazing musical force who is Rhiannon Giddens – to give birth to a new work made from material in “runaway ads,” which document the stories of enslaved individuals who sought justice and liberation. It’s happening on Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and, as of this writing, only 30 tickets remain for the performance. Get yours here.
– Ed Yim, WQXR
Listen to an overlooked history celebrated at last on record and onstage
The drummer, composer, bandleader and educator Terri Lyne Carrington has played a major role in fighting for gender equity in jazz, a notoriously male-centric art form. Last fall saw the release of a book titled “New Standards,” which includes lead sheets for 101 jazz compositions written by women, including Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Carla Bley, Maria Schneider and so many more. An album called “New Standards, Vol. 1” followed soon after, with a superstar band interpreting some of the material from the songbook. Now, a concert at City Winery on Thursday, Jan. 12, showcases the book, the album and, most importantly, the players: Carrington will be joined by major figures like Michele Rosewoman, Linda May Han Oh and Kris Davis. It’s also one of the kickoff events for this year’s Winter Jazzfest, a citywide celebration that runs through Jan. 18 – learn more and order tickets here.
– Steve Smith