The Culture Lover’s August Guide

With high summer upon us, you might be desperate for unique experiences to help fill your vacation void. Luckily, August is stacked with an impressive lineup of virtual festivals, museum re-openings, and outdoor art experiences that will have you forgetting your beachside escape altogether.

To kick things off, Lollapalooza is presenting an entire weekend of free virtual programming, with live performances from musicians all over the world and a special appearance from Michelle Obama. Also on the horizon: a brand new socially-distanced dance festival kicks off in upstate New York as Vail Dance Festival goes digital; BlackStar Film Festival presents a week of online screenings; and there’s a crowdsourced photography exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York you can take part in. See the full list of can’t-miss events below, no frequent flyer miles required.

1. The Studio Museum in Harlem’s “Hearts in Isolation”
(All month)

The Studio Museum in Harlem’s first-ever online exhibition, “Hearts in Isolation,” presents photographs by fifteen student artists from New York City high schools shot during quarantine. The teenagers are participants in Expanding the Walls: Making Connections Between Photography, History, and Community, an extracurricular program offered by the museum that seeks to promote self-expression and discussion of social issues through the study of photography. The young photographers, who drew inspiration from the greats including Nan Goldin, Catherine Opie, and Jamel Shabazz, had to find inspiration close to home this spring. The resulting images reflect on themes of family and safety as they trained their cameras on siblings, stuffed animals, and street life glimpsed from windows.

View “Hearts in Isolation”

2. The Museum of the City of New York’s “New York Responds”
(All month)

At this moment of crisis and change, the Museum of the City of New York is asking New Yorkers to share their personal photos of life in the time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests with the hashtags #COVIDStoriesNYC and #ActivistNY. “New York Responds” is an outdoor installation featuring some of the many images that have already been submitted, spanning the front wall and terrace loggia of the museum’s Fifth Avenue entrance. It will serve as a starting point for a new exhibition that will open later this year that seeks to tell the stories of 2020 and what comes next.

Share your Photos with “New York Responds”

3. Kaatsbaan Dance Festival
(All month)

Boasting sweeping views of the Hudson River and more than 150 acres of open space, Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in upstate New York has long been a dancers’ retreat. Now, it will also host a summer dance festival, thanks to Stella Abrera, Kaatsbaan’s artistic director and a former principal dancer at American Ballet Theater, who wanted to do something about the lack of performance opportunities for dancers due to COVID-19. There will be performances featuring more than 40 acclaimed dancers performing solos and socially-distanced duets and trios every weekend from August 1 to September 27, which will be streamed on the organization’s YouTube channel. There will also be a limited number of free reserved spots for each performance, for those who wish to attend the festival in person.

Attend Kaatsbaan Dance Festival

4. New York Botanical Garden Reopening
(All month)

The New York Botanical Garden—the gigantic 250-acre urban oasis featuring vibrant hydrangeas, water lilies, and lotuses among its more than one million plants—reopened to the public earlier this week as part of New York Forward’s Phase 4. A new timed-entry ticketing system staggers arrivals, and all visitors over the age of two are required to wear masks. So if you’re tired of being in your apartment, come for a socially distanced stroll in the lushly shaded Chilton Azalea Garden and stay for a glass of rosé in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, where more than 650 species of roses are in peak bloom. If you aren’t ready to leave your house just yet, that’s ok too: There are 12 different virtual walking tours available online.

Visit the New York Botanical Garden

5. Lolla2020
(Through August 2)

In lieu of its annual festival in Chicago’s Grant Park, Lollapalooza will be hosting a virtual celebration this year, bringing major musical talents together for a free four-day event. From July 30 to August 2, viewers can tune into Lollapalooza’s YouTube channel each night at 5 p.m. CDT., where they’ll be able to watch a selection of performances including fan-favorite sets from previous festivals and original performances from artists around the world. The lineup is stacked, with Paul McCartney, Chance the Rapper, Arcade Fire, H.E.R., and Princess Nokia all on the bill, as well as a special appearance from Chicago native Michelle Obama, who will be speaking to the importance of voting.

Watch Lolla2020

6. Parrish Art Museum Reopening
(Beginning August 7)

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York will soon reopen its galleries to the public each week Friday to Monday, with timed entry advance bookings. Beginning on August 13, multimedia artist Tomashi Jackson will be projecting her video piece Interstate Love Song: Stock the River With Piranha I, which addresses how lack of access to mass transit perpetuates racial segregation, on the south side of the museum’s barn-like Herzog & de Meuron-designed space. It will be visible after dusk to drivers on Montauk Highway. Later in the month, the Parrish will also launch “Art in the Meadow,” a new outdoor activation of its grounds with sculptures by Theaster Gates, Jim Dine, and Jaume Plensa.

Visit the Parrish Art Museum

7. Vail Dance Festival
(Through August 11)

Set against breathtaking views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Vail Dance Festival is known for providing an especially stunning performance opportunity for the world’s premier dancers. In order to keep its magic alive during the pandemic, the festival will present a special all-digital edition on its YouTube channel, featuring standout performances from the last 10 years as well as a range of educational programming. Highlights from the schedule include Jose Limon’s Mazurkas danced by Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild; Alonzo King’s Personal Element performed by dancers from LINES and the New York City Ballet; and Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth performed by Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III.

Watch the Vail Dance Festival

8. The New-York Historical Society’s “Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine”
(Beginning August 14)

The free outdoor exhibition “Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” open through November in the New-York Historical Society’s rear courtyard, offers an open-air environment for visitors to contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City. Curated by poet and journalist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman, it features more than 50 photographs taken by Hickman along with 14 audio interviews with the subjects conducted by Powell during an intense two-day odyssey across the five boroughs when the city was at the peak of its epidemic curve in April. The exhibition also includes an open-sided story booth where visitors can record their own oral histories to be archived by New-York Historical.

Visit “Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine”

9. BlackStar Film Festival
(August 19-26)

For its 9th edition, BlackStar Film Festival will present over 90 films from Black, Brown, and Indigenous filmmakers via programming hosted entirely online. Viewers can tune in to watch feature films, documentaries, shorts, live panels, and other special events by buying an all-access pass for just $5 per day. From Unapologetic, a documentary that deeply examines the Black Lives Matter movement, to Miss Juneteenth, a scripted feature about a former beauty pageant queen who is helping her daughter prepare for the titular pageant, the films highlight some of the most important and urgent creative voices working today.

Watch the BlackStar Film Festival

10. Metropolitan Museum of Art Reopening
(Beginning August 29)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ready for its belated 150th birthday party. The museum is planning to reopen on August 29, pending state and city approval, and is kicking off the celebrations with with a trio of exciting special exhibits. “Making the Met, 1870-2020” will reveal the visionary figures and cultural forces that propelled New York cultural institution in new directions from its founding to the present day. Mexican artist Héctor Zamora will create “Lattice Detour” a site-specific installation for the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, which reexamines the roles of public and private space. And “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle” will present “Struggle . . . From the History of the American People,” a more relevant than ever series of paintings by the pioneering Black modernist. Painted in the 1950s, it was intended to depict, in the artist’s words, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.”

Visit the Met

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