New York City is filled with potentially poetic moments, provided you’re open to them — but sometimes it helps to be reminded. That’s what Elastic City does with its artist-led walks: expand the urban landscape and your perception of it, opening up new ways for you to interact with and understand the city around you (on one walk, I closed my eyes and let a stranger lead me through Prospect Park). The organization has been inviting artists and creators of all kinds — dancers, visual artists, musicians, even a therapist — to lead participatory walks since 2009, and now, after seven years of exploring the form, it’s hosting one last festival before calling it quits.
“I decided to wind down Elastic City because I feel like we’ve fulfilled our mission,” says founder Todd Shalom. “Elastic City has been incredibly rewarding — both for me, personally, and also, from what I hear, for the artists and the public. In working with over 100 artists over the past seven years, we’ve presented new ways for walk participants to experience the places they live in and visit. I’m extremely grateful to the thousands of people who’ve been involved as co-creators of the work.”
For those who haven’t yet experienced an Elastic City walk, or for those who have and want to go on another one while they can, this year’s festival — for which Hyperallergic is the proud media partner — will take place over the course of three weeks, July 7–27. Playfully titled The Last Walks, it includes a walk devoted to the stories of immigrants, led by artist Tania Bruguera and members of the group Mujeres en Movimiento; a walk that will immerse you in ’90s West Village dyke culture with actor and performer Becca Blackwell; a “multisensory exchange” in a South Bronx African market, facilitated by writer and performer Okwui Okpokwasili; and “The Last Walk,” a self-reflexive farewell to Elastic City led by Shalom and Niegel Smith, the organization’s associate artistic director. All the walks are free.
After the final festival, Shalom plans to distill what he and others have learned from Elastic City into a book, creating a guide to the participatory walk form. “I’m working on a book, a manual of sorts that’ll detail artists’ prompts and what I think are best practices for creating this kind of rigorously participatory work,” he says. “Outside of one’s experience on a walk, this is how the project can live on.”