With the beginning of our new season of spring programming less than a week away, we sat down with Solana Chehtman, the Public Programs Manager at Friends of the High Line, to discuss the anticipation surrounding Culture Shock and the excitement for this year's dynamic programming.
After reading, be sure to mark your calendars and come out to revel in a one-of-a-kind celebration of spring on Saturday, April 23 from 12 PM-4 PM. Trust us, you won't want to miss Culture Shock!
1. Tell us a little about your role as Public Programs Manager at the High Line.
My job consists of engaging New Yorkers and our neighbors with the High Line by offering them experiences specific to our site's unique history, design, and vantage point vis-a-vis the city, featuring a wide diversity of emerging and established local artists. Our ultimate goal is to build a community of people and artists that return to the High Line over and over, and collaborate with us over time.
2. What goes into selecting programs specific to the High Line? What do you look for when selecting performers?
We look for innovation, edge, and artists who are representative of different voices and styles. As the High Line is a public space, we want everyone to feel represented and for different conversations to be had. We also look for artists whose work is engaging, and can get our visitors involved in new and exciting ways. We imagine how different cultural performances will work in any given space, and how that space will be transformed by each piece. We present different programming formats during the season that offer the public diverse options to explore wide-ranging experiences.
3. What excites you about this year's spring programming?
We're starting this year off with a bang! Culture Shock will offer more than 80 performers covering almost 20 blocks with a diversity of genres. This year's opening event is a real celebration, with something for everyone.
We also have a not-to-be-missed new monthly night-time series starting in May that will bring the edginess of the underground performance to the High Line in Out of Line, our homage to the Renegade Cabaret. When the High Line opened in 2009, Patty Heffley, a neighbor who had enjoyed decades of privacy in her apartment, suddenly found herself staring face to face with park visitors. She responded by rounding up talented friends and creating an ad-hoc performance series on her fire escape that included music, comedy, and burlesque. Out of Line will feature the original Renegade Cabaret cast in May, followed by a roster of one-of-a-kind, genre-bending performers like Narcissister, Carmelita Tropicana, The Illustrious Blacks, and Heartbeat Opera (opera in drag!). Each of the performances will happen in a different location along the park (to be revealed the day of the performance through social media and email for those who RSVP in advance), on our own version of a fire escape… But I'll let people be surprised!
Of course, we're excited by the return of our household classics, all of them with something new or exciting to offer this year: our super popular ¡Arriba! Salsa Latin Parties will now offer salsa lessons, our Stargazing nights will offer a couple of special "date" nights with live acoustic music and drinks, and our wellness activities will have monthly special guests.
4. Describe the anticipation (of FHL staff, longtime supporters, performers) surrounding Culture Shock and spring programming.
We've received huge amounts of feedback for our Culture Shock poster from members, current and former artists, and colleagues. George Manta, the artist we collaborated with, understood the spirit of the program perfectly and was able to express it beautifully. This is the first of a series of collectible posters that we plan on developing for our biggest programs this year.
There's also a lot of excitement from artists to create new pieces specifically for this and other events, and an anticipation for wider collaborations with other artists and genres. American Sign Language artists from Other Voices teaming up with students from PS 347 for "How The I Becomes The We," and artists like Latasha N. Nevada Diggs and Paolo Javier being invited to select and invite their own poet and musician collaborators, are just two examples.
5. Describe Culture Shock in one sentence.
Culture Shock is a vibrant, colorful collection of performances that together will create a lively celebratory experience – a block party-esque feel.
6. What would you like visitors to take away from Culture Shock? From spring programming?
We aim for our visitors to experience the High Line and the city itself in a different way. We work to provide free, accessible, and interesting opportunities for engagement and also for learning and critical reflection. If a visitor leaves one of our programs feeling transformed, then we know that we've hit our mark.