From Asiya Wadud’s ECHO EXHIBIT in NYC’s Seaport District, co-presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), the Seaport District, and the Howard Hughes Corporation as part of River To River 2020: Four Voices (image courtesy LMCC; photo by Ian Douglas)

For nearly two decades, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) has presented its annual River to River festival to celebrate the enduring creativity of New Yorkers through art. Started in the aftermath of 9/11, the festival springs from an interest in highlighting the resiliency of local artists. This year’s edition, staged amid the ongoing pandemic, is no exception.

River To River 2020: Four Voices presents a range of new and recent projects by writers Asiya Wadud and Mona Chalabi (who is also an illustrator) and visual artists Jean Shin and Muna Malik. Curated by Lili Chopra and Nanette Nelms, the festival includes a collaborative poetry project (Wadud’s ECHO EXHIBIT, a partnership with Shannon Finnegan and numerous others), immersive installations (Shin’s “Floating MAiZE” and “The Last Straw”), participatory public art projects (Malik’s Blessing of The Boats: River To River), and a data visualization project that draws on US Census data (Chalabi’s 100 New Yorkers, which will play on a 24/7 loop at Westfield’s World Trade Center hub starting August 20).

Artist rendering of Muna Malik’s Blessing of The Boats: River To River in Belvedere Plaza, Battery Park City, produced by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) and co-presented with the Battery Park City Authority as part of River To River 2020: Four Voices (image courtesy the artist)

Blessing of the Boats strikes as a particular highlight. Kicking off on the 15th, the project invites responses to a prompt likely on many minds these days: “We have an opportunity to set sail towards a new future. What society would you build and how do we get there?” Participants can submit responses via origami paper boats (step-by-step video instructions for making them are included here), which they can bring to the installation in Battery Park City’s Belvedere Plaza. The act is meant to encourage “commit[ment] to the rebuilding of a more just, equitable, and sustainable future.” The artist and docents will be on hand to enforce social distancing measures, and park benches will be available for those who want to sit and stay awhile.

As museums remain closed, here’s as good an excuse as any to enjoy both art and an opportunity for reflection.

When: Various times
Where: Throughout Lower Manhattan

See LMCC for more info.

Editor’s note (8/11/20, 6:22 pm): A previous version of this article misspelled the name of curator Nanette Nelms. We regret the error. 

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.