The Art21 Telethon Is This Sunday, May 6!

The Art21 Telethon is this weekend!  If you’re in New York this coming Sunday, May 6th, be sure to drop by Algus Greenspon Gallery — 71 Morton Street — from 3-11pm for musical acts, animal talents, artist interviews, comedy, audience participation, and much more! If you’re not in NYC, you can catch a live stream at art21.org/telethon. Full details here.

So what’s the story behind this? Around this time last year, we asked the artists participating in New York Close Up if they had any ideas for public events that we could collaborate on. We were expecting variations on your typical screening or roundtable discussion. What we were not expecting was for artist Tommy Hartung, and his friend artist Ronnie Bass (who we met while out filming one evening), to propose an eight-hour marathon performance that would also serve as a fundraiser for the project.

We’ll let Ronnie explain the idea:

I remember watching telethons when I was a kid and being drawn to the ways in which it broke the rules of television—viewers could directly participate in the program by calling in, and in general, the hosts would speak in a loose, unscripted way. There was room for spontaneity.

In addition to being a functional benefit, I think of it as being a type of performance, with a particular end goal of raising funds. We did a telethon in 2007 as part of my Performa07 project called PERFORMA TV. When we needed additional funding, I immediately thought of a telethon since it’s the most standard way a television station would raise money, at least when I was growing up.

A telethon made sense for Art21. Only this time around, the event will be an extra hour, and in general, will be much more produced. We have a large assortment of varied performers who are all participating, as the organizers are, because they love Art21.

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Tommy and Ronnie teamed up with independent curator and writer Miriam Katz to help produce the event. Miriam explains:

I like that we were able to bring together a widely varied group of performers—artists, musicians, comedians—who would not necessarily fit together on a more rigidly thematic bill. Unlike a typical benefit, we expect this event to be more improvised, lively, and fun, along with a sincere expression of our appreciation for what Art21 does for the contemporary art world. We’re not sure exactly what will happen over the course of 8 hours, but we’ve packed in a lot of very special acts to fill the time.

A few of the acts include performances by Dirty Mirrors (Jennifer Coates, David Humphry, Jon Kessler, John Miller, Aura Rosenberg, Dan Walworth), Adira Amram and The Experience, MC Squared, Kate Berlant, DAS, Mike Dobbins, Ryan McNamara, Maria Petschnig, and Art21 artist Mariah Robertson; interviews with Art21 featured artists Lucas Blalock, Kalup Linzy, Shana Moulton, and Mika Tajima; plus special, surprise guests to be announced on the day of the event.

So there you have it. Get your checkbooks ready and shine up those credit cards, because a few of our favorite artists are throwing us a telethon!

Contributor
Claudine Isé is a Chicago-based arts and culture writer and a visiting clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
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