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The River to River Festival kicks off June 19th and lasts through the 29th. Some promotional fliers mailed out were nondescript. It was not clear what the event will be about, who the performers will be, and who produces it.
The LMCC produces the event now, but the Downtown Alliance started River to River and ran it for eight years. Therefore, we asked the existing President of the Downtown Alliance, Jessica Lappin, to get us up to speed.
Q1: When was River to River started?
Ms. Lappin: River to River started in 2002 as one of many initiatives that Alliance took to bring activity and visitors to Lower Manhattan after the awful events of 9/11.
Animating arts and culture in the neighborhood has always been important.
Q2: What is it all about?
Lappin: The festival has always been about showcasing renowned and breakout artists from New York City and beyond and to show that work in a distinctly Lower Manhattan context.
R2R is a performing arts festival and it provides people an opportunity to visit with artists –who work in a variety of mediums–in their own studios.
Site specific work has always been important to River to River. It’s work that looks to relate its content to the venue or physical place it’s being performed.
Q3: From when to when did Downtown Alliance run it?
Lappin: From its inception in 2002 until 2010 when the program was taken over by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC).
Q4: You only sponsor it now. How is your role different from when you produced it and sponsored it?
Lappin: We make a financial contribution to LMCC in support of the festival (along with many others), but all the programming, production and presentation are handled entirely by LMCC.
Q5: Why does LMCC produce it now?
Lappin: The Alliance’s mission evolves all the time and it was felt by both the Alliance and LMCC that the Festival’s natural home for the long run was with LMCC.
The answers provided by Ms. Lappin were brief and vague. We requested to speak with her directly, but were only able to get answers to written questions that were filtered through the communications person, Mr. Andrew Breslau.
It is still very unclear to us what the River to River Festival really is. There is some mention of “grants” to artists, but the Downtown Alliance failed to list any success stories from the eight years of grants they awarded.
The Downtown Alliance that used to fund and produce the R2R, and now the LMCC. Both are both funded in large part by the LMDC funds that flowed in to help Downtown rebuild after September 11th, 2001.
How much the Downtown Alliance has spent in the past, and how much it sponsors now, were left unanswered. Ms. Lappin’s communications person replied, “That’s a question for the LMCC”.
The boards of director overseeing the LMCC, LMDC, and Downtown Alliance are a veritable Who’s Who in high society. For examples, the Chairman of the LMCC is the global head of real estate for Goldman Sachs, Timur Galen. The Chairman of the LMDC is Avi Schick, former President of the Empire State Development Corporation. For the Downtown Alliance, everyone from Mayor de Blasio on down are on the board.
The River to River Festival seems to be an event that justifies the existence of the many duplicative 501c non-profits and Business Improvement Districts. On paper, it is a community event that provides grants and culture for Downtown.
But does it really? Stay tuned.