Bard Graduate Center’s inaugural Focus Festival, April 8–9, 2017, brings thinkers and artists together for a weekend of interdisciplinary programming that draws inspiration from the key themes of our two spring Focus Project exhibitions: New York Crystal Palace 1853 and Design by the Book: Chinese Ritual Objects and the Sanli tu.

Complementing our mission as an institute devoted to studying the cultural histories of the material world, the two-day Festival invites visitors to join in conversations across history that explore how themes raised by the two exhibitions, notably ritual and capital, resonate in our contemporary moment.

Join us for the keynote conversation “Ways of Seeing the City” with 2016 MacArthur Fellow, poet, essayist, and author Claudia Rankine and essayist Garnette Cadogan on April 8 at 7 pm. Additional programs include a talk by Michael Puett, author of the New York Times bestseller The Path; walking tours of the Seneca Village site in Central Park with archaeologist Cynthia Copeland and the New York ports with Jack Tchen, co-founder of the Museum of Chinese in America; and a performance of Aaron Landsman’s critically acclaimed Love Story, a theatrical piece about a disappearing city, two people navigating it, and a fidgety, obsessive follower. Curators will offer spotlight tours of the exhibitions and kids can participate in family-friendly workshops.

The Focus Festival takes place at Bard Graduate Center Gallery at 18 West 86th Street, New York. The ground floor of the Gallery will feature a Reading Room that promotes community engagement with artists’ books and periodicals curated by Brooklyn-based literary organization Wendy’s Subway.

Events take place at 18 West 86th Street are free unless otherwise indicated. Visitors are invited to attend one or multiple events during the festival.


Saturday, April 8

12 pm
Curator’s Spotlight Tour: New York Crystal Palace 1853
Cost: Free with RSVP
Led by Caroline Hannah, Associate Curator, Bard Graduate Center
This event is SOLD OUT! To be placed on our waiting list please contact public.programs@bgc.bard.edu

1–3 pm
Kids Workshop: Writing the City
Cost: $20 per family
Presented by artists-in-residence, Wendy’s Subway
In this workshop, kids and families will join together to read short pieces and excerpts by great New York City writers from different eras and backgrounds. Feeling inspired, kids will draw on personal experiences of the city to write down innovative reflections and will perform simple bookmaking to present the resulting work. Suitable for ages 6–12.


3 pm: walk begins at 18 West 86th Street
Walking tour: Seneca Village and the Making of Central Park
Cost: $20 adult/$10 student
Led by Cynthia Copeland, Adjunct Professor, New York University, and co-founding director of the Seneca Village Project, in collaboration with choreographer Jennifer Newman and composer Justin Hicks. 75 minutes. Kids ages 10 and up welcome. This event is SOLD OUT! To be placed on our waiting list please contact public.programs@bgc.bard.edu

5:30 pm
Performance: Love Story
A performance about a disappearing city, two people navigating it, and a fidgety, obsessive follower. 35 minutes in length. A critically acclaimed performance piece, Love Story features Frank Harts and is written by Aaron Landsman with video design by Janet Wong and an original score by Todd Griffin. This event is SOLD OUT! To be placed on our waiting list please contact public.programs@bgc.bard.edu or attend our next performance on April 9, 3:30 pm.

7 pm: 38 West 86th Street
Keynote: Ways of Seeing the City
Claudia Rankine and Garnette Cadogan in Conversation
Cost $20 adult/$10 student
Claudia Rankine is a 2016 MacArthur fellow, poet, essayist, playwright, the editor of several anthologies and recent recipient of the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry; Garnette Cadogan is an essayist and journalist, and editor-at-large for Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas.

Sunday, April 9

12 pm
Curator’s Spotlight Tour: Design by the Book: Chinese Ritual Objects and the Sanli tu
Cost: Free with RSVP
Led by François Louis, Associate Professor, Bard Graduate Center

12 pm: off site location (walk begins under the Washington Square Arch, Washington Square Park)
Walking tour: Branding Fifth Avenue & the Other NY
Cost: $20 adult/$10 student
Led by Jack Tchen, cultural historian at NYU and co-founder, Museum of Chinese in America, this tour will take participants through the formation of the Fifth Avenue Association in relation to the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire and how city politics, from the time of the Crystal Palace in 1853 onwards, shaped the “light” and “shadow” settlement claims of New York City. We’ll be exploring how this otherness was shaped in ideas but especially via cultural affects. This program is in collaboration with Below the Grid Lab. 75 mins. Kids ages 10 and up welcome.

1–3 pm
Kids Workshop: We Built this City
Cost: $20 per family
just added: meet for a free Family Tour at 12 pm before the Workshop!
In this hands-on afternoon workshop inspired by New York Crystal Palace 1853, kids and families will visualize New York City from different points of view and explore its evolution since the nineteenth century. Build a 3D cardboard model of your neighborhood or design a prototype city of the future. Suitable for kids ages 6–12.

3:30 pm
Performance: Love Story
Cost: Free with RSVP
(see above description)

5 pm: 38 West 86th Street
Keynote Lecture: Ritual and Representation in Classical China
Cost: $20 adult/$10 student
Presented by Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. This talk will explore a complex set of debates developed in classical China concerning the nature of rituals as well as the use, representation, and reproduction of ritual objects in order to provide a context for understanding the materials from the exhibition.