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."
Get to know artist Theaster Gates
It's hard to believe that "Young Lords and Their Traces," now on view at the New Museum, is the first-ever solo museum exhibition devoted to Chicago artist Theaster Gates, considering how widespread and pervasive his work and influence have become. He's active in the fields of sculpture, installation art and collaborative performance. And in certain pieces in his extensive New Museum show, he's paying homage to specific influences in his own life and artistic practice, including Agnes Martin, bell hooks, Greg Tate and Virgil Abloh. Meanwhile, a second show called "Vestment," up now at Gagosian on Madison Avenue, features recent works that Gates terms "tar paintings" – and these, too, honor forebears like Agnes Martin and Andrei Tarkovsky. The New Museum show runs through February 5, and you can learn more here; the Gagosian exhibition ends on December 23, and you can see details here.
– Steve Smith
Hear quality music with meaningful messages in Harlem and the Bronx
WQXR’s own Terrance McKnight hosts the dynamic Harlem Chamber Players at the Harlem School for the Arts on Saturday, December 10, at 4 p.m. Featuring three towering figures in music – Adolphus Hailstork, George Walker and Frederick Tillis – this group’s work continues to grow and flourish as an essential part of the New York City musical landscape. This concert coincides with the Players' debut recording, devoted to Hailstork's music, and you can R.S.V.P. here. The next day, Lara Downes – who has become a favorite musical figure at WQXR through her performances in The Greene Space and her soulful recordings on our airwaves – performs at the beautiful Wave Hill in the Bronx on Sunday, December 11 at 2 p.m. She’ll be playing "Where Dreams Begin," an intimate program with a message of universal hope and humanity. (Don’t forget to save time to walk around the beautiful Wave Hill grounds.) Learn more about Downes' concert here.
– Ed Yim, WQXR
Celebrate “Navidad,” a dance blending mariachi and Tchaikovsky
Geared toward children and families, “Navidad” tells the story of a young person with Mexican immigrant parents growing up in New York City. “Navidad” melds Aztec-inspired dance with Christmas carols, folk with ballet, and mariachi music with Tchaikovsky. It’s the holiday offering from Calpulli Mexican Dance, which is based in New York City and honors Mexican and Mexican-American cultural heritage. The performance runs about 80 minutes, including an intermission. It happens Saturday, Dec. 10 and Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Queens Theater in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Tickets start at $25; you can learn more about pricing and schedules here, and read our feature article about how the company and its presentation came to be, here.
– Kerry Shaw
The puppets are coming!
Bread + Puppet Theater – which began in the 1960s in New York City, before relocating to Vermont – returns to the Big Apple with their famous giant puppets and several new shows. The first is “Ophelia,” a retelling of the classic Shakespearean tale. In this version, however, Ophelia is “not an attachment to Hamlet,” but instead “the center around which all other elements spin.” Another show, “The Apocalypse Defiance Circus,” is an hour-long “spectacle of protest and celebration.” After each show, Bread & Puppet will serve sourdough bread with aioli. Tickets start at $18 for grownups, $12 for students and children. Masks are required at all performances. The shows runs through December 18 at Theater for the New City.
– Kerry Shaw
Witness a fierce new Broadway satire from a history-making playwright
The new Broadway show "Ain't No Mo'" has been called “an audacious debut” by Deadline. It is also a history-making show. Its author, Jordan E. Cooper is, at 27, the youngest playwright ever produced on Broadway. Breaking the mold of a classic show, "Ain't No Mo'" offers both a surreal and very real look at the joy of and threats to Black culture. And it asks us to consider what it would mean to be free. The show is running at the Belasco Theater through February 26. We spoke this week with Cooper, who stars in his own show, and producer Lee Daniels.
– Alison Stewart, "All of It"
Catch a free concert by an all-star quartet with a versatile guest
The Hands Free is truly an all-star group of composer-performers. Guitarist James Moore runs an edgy new-music group called Dither. Accordionist Nathan Koci plays French horn in classical ensembles, and works as a music director for Broadway shows like "Oklahoma!" and "Hadestown." Violinist Caroline Shaw is a Pulitzer Prize-winning classical composer who also sings in the group Roomful of Teeth. And bassist Eleonore Oppenheim has worked with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk – the list goes on and on. Together, they mix elements of chamber music, folk and improvisation. On Monday, December 12, they're appearing in the Music Mondays series at Advent Lutheran Church, collaborating with a similarly versatile artist: the singer and composer Alicia Hall Moran, whose work spans opera, jazz, R&B and more. The program will reflect that range: Traditional spirituals, Henry Purcell, George Gershwin, and plenty of originals. It's happening at 7:30, and admission is free – you can learn more and R.S.V.P. here.
– Steve Smith
See a live show about the podcast “Forever is a Long Time”
“Forever Is a Long Time” was named one of the best podcasts of 2021 by several media outlets, including the New Yorker and The New York Times. And now, you can see these stories on the stage at The Greene Space, WNYC’s live performance venue. The backstory: Eight years ago, when audio producer Ian Coss decided to get married, he realized that “every living member of his family who had ever been married – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles – had also gotten divorced.” Coss began interviewing relatives, trying to gather clues for his own relationship and to gain a deeper understanding of commitment. The live event happens on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., and tickets are about $18.
– Kerry Shaw