How has the River To River Festival become the largest free summer arts festival in New York City, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to Lower Manhattan every summer?
First off, the festival offers free admission to all its events. From City Hall to Battery Park and across Downtown from the East River to the Hudson, the festival brings the richness of the arts in NYC—music, dance, theater, film, visual art and performance—to stages, street corners, historic parks, plazas and piers across Lower Manhattan. Created to bring more people Downtown in the wake of 9/11, the River To River Festival has become the showcase for local, regional, and international performers who believe art can transform and unite communities.
This year’s festival runs from Tuesday, June 22, through Thursday, August 19.
River To River brings in world-renowned performers who call New York City home. Joining them are regional and international artists. In the past, the festival has featured established musicians such as Brian Stokes Mitchell, Dianne Reeves, and James Brown. Additionally, the festival has hosted concerts by some of the best alternative and indie rock bands: Sonic Youth, The Feelies, The xx and Spoon, to name a few.
Part of the festival’s broad appeal lies in its diversity. There are dance performances (Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris, and Trisha Brown have been featured), as well as concerts by emerging classical and Latin artists. For film enthusiasts, the River To River Festival consistently screens a selection of classics such as West Side Story, Seven Year Itch, Imitation of Life, and Rear Window.
Audience satisfaction surveys attest to the festival’s ability to bring in audiences and stimulate interest in New York art events. Of festival attendees who don’t live or work in Lower Manhattan, 90 percent make a special trip from other parts of the city to see a River To River event. Ninety percent of festival attendees rated their experience as very good to excellent.
Three-fourths say the festival introduced them to a new artist and encouraged them to go online for more artist information. And 90 percent of attendees say the festival motivated them to attend more arts events. The festival is also a boon for Downtown businesses. Eighty-three percent of those who attend events snack or dine out while Downtown, spending an average of $17 per a person.
With world-renowned artists performing for enthusiastic audiences surrounded by the beauty of Downtown Manhattan, it is easy to see why the River To River Festival has become so admired and continues to grow in popularity. Oh, and did we mention that everything is 100 percent free? So come Downtown and check out New York’s finest summer arts festival.