Rashid Johnson’s Latest Public Installation Invites Anyone on Stage

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Astor Place has long been a hub for the vibrant community of downtown New York City. Surrounded by historic theaters, schools, and meeting places, the square has seen plenty of momentous demonstrations, protests, and performances throughout the years.

On June 5, American artist Rashid Johnson became the latest creative to make the square his own platform by erecting a 30-foot-wide steel structure to stretch across the South Plaza. Garbed in a coat of “Alarm Red” paint, the stage is a call to chronic anxiety—a theme that became particularly central to Johnson’s work over the past year and one that has become newly relevant to many throughout the pandemic.

For Creative Time, the organization behind the installation (as well as many other public arts projects), it was crucial for Red Stage to respond to the current climate. “The pandemic led to a rethinking of the project as well as deep introspection around the intersecting roles of Creative Time, public art, and public space in this moment,” Justine Ludwig, Creative Time’s executive director, tells AD. “We wanted to speak to our creative collective histories while responding directly to the needs of a New York City reawakened from a year of pain and isolation.”

Rashid Johnson pictured with friends at the Resurgence Opening Party.

Photo: Courtesy of Creative Time 

And with festivities and flair, that’s just what Red Stage does. Throughout the month, the installation will bring together community to celebrate the ability to reunite and collaborate again. The stage will carry on with a host of events including participatory workshops, games, block parties, poetry readings, walks, and protest music concerts. Community notables such as activist and performer Morgan Bassichis and award-winning theater director Charlotte Brathwaite will also have a day to take center stage.

Besides the exciting programming lineup, Red Stage will stay true to the roots of its location by serving as “the people’s platform” three days a week. During those hours, members of the public may use the stage in any way they please on a sign-up or drop-by basis. “This is a truly participatory project,” Diya Vij, associate curator of Creative Time, tells AD



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