Mark Your Calendars: Events Every Artist Should Attend This Summer

Whether it’s a festival or an exhibit, New York City is bursting with events this summer. Creative minds, grab your calendars and save the date(s) so that you experience authentic and exhilarating art and performance.

Blue Note Jazz Festival 


June 1-30, 2016 (See schedule)

Location: Various throughout the boroughs

Featuring: Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Al Jarreau, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Scofield / Mehldau / Giuliana, Rebirth Brass Band, Talib Kweli, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, Roy Haynes, Sangam: Charles Lloyd / Zakir Hussain / Eric Harland, Arturo Sandoval, Avishai Cohen, & more.

Brooklyn Film Festival

June 3-12, 2016

Location: Various Locations in Brooklyn (See Venues)

With this year’s theme being “Experiment”, the international and competitive festival features a diverse collection of screenings of contestants emerging in the film industry. The Brooklyn Film Festival’s goal is to highlight Brooklyn as a center for cinema making, as well as engage the public in independent film production. Single film tickets can be purchased, or a festival passes can be bought here

Museum Mile Festival

June 14th, 2016, 6-9pm

Location: Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th streets

A free event that allows art enthusiasts to loop 5th Avenue starting at and ending at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other participating museums include El Museo del Barrio, The Jewish Museum, The Smithsonian Design Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and The Neue Gallerie. In addition, various displays and interactive events will take place along 5th avenue during the event

River to River

June 16-26th, 2016

Location: Lower Manhattan (see schedule)

Run by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, River to River includes over 60 free events (some require RSVP, beginning June 1st) providing participants with  intimate and provocative dance, music, visual art, and new media projects in public parks, in historic landmarks, on Governors Island, and along the waterfront.


Midsummer Night Swing

June 21st-July 9th, 2016

Location: Lincoln Center

Each day of the festival, the dance floor opens from 6:00PM -10:00PM including styles of Latin, Swing, Disco, and R&B. The dance instruction includes a live music set, and on June 23rd and July 2nd the party ends with a free Silent Disco. Tickets can be purchased at the door each evening, or a festival pass can be purchased here

Fresh Fruit Festival

July 11th-24th, 2016

Location: The WILD Project Theater, 193 East 3rd Street

Annual Festival celebrating the arts of the LGBQ community.  Two weeks of day and night Theatre, Dance, Musicals, Cabaret, Art, and much more. Although an official calendar of events have not yet been released, 2015’s events included shows and exhibits from artists such as  Patrick Thomas McCarthy, Rachel Carson, Andy Chesterton, Obediah P. Wright, Judy Klass, and Kelli Dunham.


Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

BHHF-Poster-Full--683x1024.pngJuly 13th-16th, 2016

Location: Brooklyn – Multiple Locations

In addition to musical performances, the Festival offers a number of activities for its audience, including: panel discussions, exhibitions, parties, film screenings and a family-friendly block party. The Festival is more than a concert or outdoor fair. It is a family reunion for lovers of this great culture. Four days of beats, rhymes, knowledge, film, photography, MCs, DJs, B-Boys, B-Girls, food, fashion and more. Buy tickets here




New York City Poetry Festival

July 30th-31st, 2016

Location: Governors Island, Manhattan

A two day event featuring over 250 poets and writers from reviews, workshops, magazines, collectives and organizations. The line-up currently includes The Adroit Journal, Apogee Journal, Black Lawrence Press, Blue Bonnet Review, Brooklyn Poets, Coast to Coast Poetry Press Collective, he Emily Dickinson Museum, Hidden House Press, Italian American Writers Association, Louffa Press, Miami University Press, Nauset Press, New York Writers Workshop, Pen Pal Poets, Poets of Corsi, Royal Blue Publishing, Urban Word NYC, and dozens more. Tickets are free, but must be reserved online

The Battery Dance Festival 

August 14-20, 2016, 6:30pm-8:30pm

Location: Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park – Battery Park City

New York City’s longest-running free public dance festival that provides the opportunity for professionals and emerging dancers to present original work for the public, including a wide range of styles including ballet, theatre, modern, Polish dance, Colombian dance, as well as boundary defying artistic genres. Official list of companies will be released in June.



This Summer’s List of Affordable Workshops and Classes for Creative Minds in NYC

Many classes and workshops, whether for writing or painting, tend to be expensive and out of reach for many students and younger artists. However, there are still many opportunities to delve into your craft locally this summer. Stay challenged and connected  by signing up for workshops, classes, and events this summer. Check out these no-commitment, one session classes around NYC:

Drawing and Painting

1.  Draw In Central Park -$35

A 1-session beginner’s course run by The Art Studio NY, the class is a nature walk workshop duo for creative minds inspired by nature. They meet Saturdays (check online schedule, as it is not every Saturday of the month) from 12pm-2pm in the Upper West Side of Central Park. Instructors are teachers from the studio, who will guide the lesson and provide feedback. The fee also includes all art supplies for the day.

2. MoMA – Artist Lead Classes (Free-$30 for Students)

Join artists currently exhibited by the MoMA for 1 session classes ranging from style, technique, to theory. With a student ID, register for classes at a discounted price of $30 such as “Political Printmaking: The 1960s and Today”, or look for their free events such as “Art and Practice with Carloine Woolord.” If you can’t make it to the MoMA, you can also utilize their online archives of classes at home.

3. Weekly Figure Drawing – $15

The Trestle Gallery in Gowanus, Brooklyn is a community studio that offers walk-in figure drawing classes three times a week -Monday and Wednesday Evening, along with Saturday afternoons. The session includes no instruction, only the space and the model where artists bring their own supplies and work on their figure drawing techniques.

4. First Fridays Art Social – $20

A laid back event designed for fun, the Brooklyn Craft Company meets every Friday evening at 7PM for drawing class and wine tasting to meet friends and improve your craft. The price includes all drawing materials and drinks for wine tasting.

Theatre and Performance

1. The Magnet Theatre – FREE

Introduction classes from improv to storytelling, the Magnet Theatre in Midtown, NY offers frequent tuition free classes where attendees are taught by theatre professionals for 1 class sessions. They also have shows, such as Premiere: The Improvised Musical debuting this month for only $10 a ticket.

2. AND Wednesdays -FREE

The  Artistic New Directions acting group (or, AND) hosts free events on Wednesdays. These include a Improv Workshop run by actors Scotty Watson and David Marx, or a Open Rehearsal for Anything Goes, where participants perform a 10-minute cold reading of the musical (there is only 6 spots available to make sure to RSVP for this event by emailing

3. Jalopy Jam Sessions & Workshops 

The Jalopy theatre and studio in Brooklyn hosts a variety of jam sessions, free of charge, where musicians can gather and riff off each other in a group of talented musicians. They also provide workshops (ranging from $25-$30) where you can register to learn more about tuning and improving music for the instrument of your choice. Also check out their lists of Live Music Performances in addition to their classes.

Poetry and Writing

  1. Brooklyn Poets’ YAWP -$5

Named after the Walt Whitman’s famous line in Leaves of Grass, this local community is dedicated to inspiring and connecting with others. Orchestrated by Brooklyn poet, Jason Koo, the group invites poets to meet at 61 Local at 7PM every second Monday of the month for a workshop and open mic. Guest speakers frequently come in to lead the group, and participants receive feedback as well as an opportunity to share.

2. Gotham Writers – FREE

Alongside its premiere programs that require tuition, Gotham Writers also host a variety of events free of charge. From topics ranging from playwriting, to humor writing, even entry level creative writing, their free courses survey a variety of genres, meeting anywhere from Bryant Park to local bars and restaurants.

3. New York Public Library -FREE

Search for writing events such as Island Writers Creative Writing Group meeting every Tuesday at 1pm, or an autobiographical focused group Writing Circle meeting every Thursday at 10am, the library organizes a variety of free events in various locations.


  1. Pay What You Wish- Experiential Intuitive Photography -$20 (suggested)

The Art of Intuitive Photography, in addition to its many photography classes and sessions, will often offer a “pay as you wish” 1 hour photography session. These are lead by one of their instructors, and they focus on tapping into your intuition as well as offering basic tips and photographing skills.

2. PhotoManhattan’s Free and Affordable Photography Classes -FREE

PhotoManhattan school of photography offers free of cost workshops and photography sessions through their Meetup page. Here, photographers can gather for various walks or in studio for a courtesy course lead by instructors from the school.



A Long Way Home: David Coonan’s Journey to Becoming a Community Theatre Innovator

David Coonan of Nassau County re-founded the Malverne Community Theatre (MCT) back in 2012. He has since nourished the organization into the thriving hub for actors, producers, and directors to collaborate and perform.

Coonan’s high school Social Studies teacher and Theatre Director, Sal Zaccaro, was one of the original founders of MCT back in 1966. It was Zaccaro who first taught Coonan during his freshman year at Malverne High School in 1996. This encounter would spark the chain of events that ultimately had Coonan’s love for theatre flourish into a career.

“I wanted to be part of it, but being a shy kid, I didn’t really think that being on stage was in my wheelhouse” says Coonan prior to his first confrontation with Zaccaro. Coonan attended the general meeting for Little Shop of Horrors, in the back corner, assuming his position would be a stage manager.  When the meeting concluded, Zaccaro asked Coonan to do a dry reading for the part of The Dentist.

“I don’t know what it was that he saw in me, it will always be a mystery to me why he asked me to read” says Coonan. “His talent was seeing talent in other people, which I think is something I have taken on from him.”

Coonan was casted for the part of The Dentist. This performance ignited Coonan’s interest, having him delve into further studies in acting. He continued performing in every Malverne High School production until his graduation, under the mentorship of Sal Zaccaro.

“I didn’t realize how much [Zaccaro] actually taught me, until I saw how other productions were run.” shares Coonan. “It was because of the environment that he set up that allowed us to learn and experiment.”

After high school, Coonan attended Hofstra University to study Journalism. During this time, opportunities to act were both sporadic and sparse. It wasn’t until a call from Zaccaro during Coonan’s junior year, in 2002, that exposed him to a drastically different experience with acting among adult performers.

“It showed me the level of work, and the level of commitment and the level of study that I didn’t have at that point as far as theatre goes.” Submerging himself within this group of talent, Coonan was reenergized, and sought out more learning opportunities for himself.

The next call from Zaccaro came in 2005 when Coonan was offered to participate in the One Act Festival at the Author’s Playhouse in Bayshore, NY. Coonan was casted in 7 of the 12 one-acts, performing in front of a panel of judges.

“I just knew I was going to be working with Sal again” explains Coonan who did not anticipate the scale of the festival.

After college, Coonan became an educator teaching English in high schools on Long Island. His outlet for acting was simultaneously becoming Theatre Director for these schools. As the Theatre director in high school environments, he shares that he found himself emulating the same teaching styles that he learned under Zaccaro’s teaching.

Students performing Our Town under the direction of David Coonan

“I start to see it come up in various places” says Coonan of Zaccaro’s influence. “I find myself repeating  the same things he would say. It’s remarkable how much directing knowledge he gave me while teaching me to act.”

When Coonan sought out Malverne Community Theatre, he was unaware of Zaccaro’s previous involvement. When the baton needed to be passed and ownership was signed over, discovering his mentor’s name as a part of the original founders of MCT brought it full circle for Coonan.

His involvement with MCT has evolved further and grown into a space of authentic partnership with other producers and performers. “This project is bigger than me, it’s not about me anymore” Coonan admits of MCT. “It’s bigger than I ever thought it would be.” The climate Coonan established for the company allows him to now take his time to plan what’s next, putting intentional work behind further steps.

Malverne Community Theatre’s original production Demon Trail (Oct 2015)

Coonan’s most recent project was a return to the basics. In a search for something different, he found an opportunity to work as the director for Oceanside Library’s Script-In-Hand Production series. Coonan’s involvement began in March 2015 with the play Doubt by John Patrick Shanely, then again that August with The White Liars by Peter Shaffer. This month, Coonan had the unique opportunity of working with award-winning playwright, Richard Vetere, to help mold the play Alone for its debut performance. On April 15th, Coonan with a  cast of 4 actors showcased the play as a part of Oceanside Library’s Script-In-Hand Theatre series.

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Alone cast with playwright Richard Vetere (center left) and director David Coonan (center right).

“The thing I liked most about the script was that it wasn’t finished” explains Coonan. This new challenge consisted of an open line communication between Coonan and the playwright. The script underwent a series of drafts that, with both the actors’ and director’s  feedback, sculpted the play. By the time of the performance, the script was altered 5 or 6 times from what was originally written.

Despite this new advantage of forming a script, Coonan explains that it is still the actors that bring it to life. He expresses that “Once the actors hit the stage in front of an audience there’s a certain level of control I lose. It is what is is at that point.”

Moving forward, Coonan is now transitioning into a season that offers more freedom for his creativity and passion. In addition, Coonan operates his own website, “Theaterific“, which features interviews with theatre professionals, news in the theatre world, along with acting and directing advice from Coonan himself.

“Life is a series of one act plays…I feel I’m moving to the next one” says Coonan.

To follow Coonan’s latest projects and to tap into excellent resources on theatre and acting, subscribe to Theaterific or follow the website’s Twitter account. For videos of performances and events, visit MCT’s Youtube page.