Readers of Weekend Miser know that New York City has no shortage of free and low-cost cultural events — after all, for the past five years the Miser has been highlighting them. Now the time has come to bid adieu, but not without one last column. And it seems fitting to include events through February, most with ties to Black History Month.
One institution commemorating black experiences in America year-round is the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Hamilton Heights. The library doesn’t skimp on programming this month, with several discussions and two exhibitions. In “Digging Up the Past: A History of the Schomburg Center,” the library has culled from its archives to paint a colorful timeline of its 90-year history. (That includes a section on its founder, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the Puerto Rican-born black educator, bibliophile and activist.) Another exhibition, “The 75th Anniversary of the American Negro Theater,” features photographs, posters and playbills associated with the company’s stage productions throughout the 1940s. Look for images of Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Harry Belafonte and others performing radio broadcasts.
The library’s other highlights include a discussion about Malcolm X’s legacy on Sunday at 3 p.m.; a Theater Talk focusing on the Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie,” with its director, Michael Grandage, and star, Forest Whitaker, as well as other cast members on Monday at 7 p.m.; and on Feb. 25 and 26 at 7 p.m., the Schomburg is hosting performances of the Renegade Performance Group’s “Dapline” (above), which Brian Seibert, in his review for The New York Times, called a “powerful” dance that “draws strength from its abstracted ambiguity.”
(The library is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, at West 135th Street, Hamilton Heights; nypl.org, 917-275-6975; all events are free. To register, visit schomburgcenter.eventbrite.com.)
In Central Park, the Arsenal Gallery’s latest exhibition, “America: The Legacy of African American Public Service,” runs through the end of the month. For this display, the park’s Ebony Society organized works by artists who had been asked, according to the website, to “share their interpretations of the long and often little known lineage of African-American government officials,” from figures like President Obama to the nation’s earliest public servants in the mid-1700s. The gallery is open only during the week, so try for a quick getaway during your lunch break.
(Weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Central Park at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, third floor of the Arsenal Building; centralparknyc.org, 212-360-8163; free.)
While this month is a time for serious reflection and education, the Miser would be remiss if she didn’t include a bit of levity. Consider a “Journey Thru Black History” courtesy of the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Astronomy Club team. This group of improvisers uses history as a backdrop for its clever sketches. (One recent one involved a debate among three African-American inventors and an obnoxious George Washington Carver, a.k.a. the Peanut Man, about who would leave a lasting legacy.) The show’s good-natured fun just may send you searching for historical clarity (and thanking the Miser one last time).
(Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m., Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 307 West 26th Street, Chelsea; ucbtheatre.com, 212-366-9176; $10.)