Rashid Johnson’s Red Stage Invites You to Shine

Exploring “new ways of togetherness” as the city reawakens

| 20 Jun 2021 | 10:33

When the stage becomes the art and beckons to artists to climb on, they eagerly do. “Activist, rabble-rouser, performer, teacher, student, dreamer, neighbor, and bystander” are invited to join them there.

The can’t-be-missed brilliant-red structure at Astor Place at 8th Street, is the brainchild of multi-media artist Rashid Johnson who “conceived of Red Stage as an emergency call to artists and creatives to experiment, collaborate, and gather in an act of resurgence as the city reawakens,” Diya Vij, associate curator at Creative Time, the public-art organization in charge of the stage programming, said recently.

Vij and her team have put together a month-long list of participants who share their art and voice – through music, dance, teach-ins, celebrations – while extending an open invitation for anyone from the community, including passersby, to become involved and explore with them “new ways of togetherness” that can emerge in times of crisis.

Rachel Brandon of the Village Alliance, the non-profit organization that manages the plaza at Astor Place, is thrilled to be working with Johnson and Creative Time on this “amazing project.”

“It has brought a sense of vibrancy and life to Astor Place after so many months with limited programming [due to the pandemic],” she said.

Diya Vij spoke about the Red Stage public platform concept and community response so far:

What was the inspiration behind setting up the stage and choosing the brilliant red color?

Rashid Johnson conceived of Red Stage as an emergency call to artists and creatives to experiment, collaborate, and gather in an act of resurgence as the city reawakens from the isolation and ongoing grief of the Covid-19 pandemic. The stage, as Johnson refers to it, is an “alarm-colored red,” a color of anxiety, urgency, and possibility.

Could you tell me a bit about Rashid Johnson’s involvement in the set-up/events?

Johnson made the Red Stage as an open invitation. He was interested in building the work and stepping back from policing its activities. So, Creative Time took charge and put together a suite of vibrant and interdisciplinary programs - full day takeovers, themed program days, and more - that asks artists and makers what new ways of togetherness are possible in times of crisis. Throughout the month, programs explore themes like resurgence, assembly, remedy, call and response, civic action, and play.

What has the response been like so far - from performers, community, passersby?

The Red Stage has been a beautiful site for holding our shared grief and finding joy together through it all. Oscar Nñ ended the Papi Juice activation by saying to the packed crowd of mostly QTPOC folks, “I hope y’all felt safe.” It continues to be a privilege to bring people together safely and through creative and political practice.

Anything else about the upcoming events and how people can participate or just enjoy the shows?

We hope people take advantage of The People’s Platform! Book it to organize together, hold discussions and reading groups, marathon readings, play music, recite poetry, perform, rehearse, rest, and gather. It’s open and available to everyone.

Red Stage will remain at Astor Place until July 4.

To participate or view the scheduled events visit: https://creativetime.org/red-stage-rashid-johnson