From New York City to Buffalo, the Empire State is packed with rich Black art and culture. Witness riveting performances from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, explore Black-owned art galleries, take a walking tour through Jackie Robinson’s Harlem, or admire the work of Black artists at a collection curated by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. Whether you prefer a beautiful art museum or a lively festival, here are some great places to celebrate, honor, and commemorate Black art and culture throughout the state. 

JUMP TO: Art, Museums, and Exhibits | Performing Arts | Annual Celebrations | Walking Tours

Art, Museums, and Exhibits

Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (New York City)

Art, music, and cultural icons placed on a white wall of a hallwayCredit: @lorie.caval on Instagram

Explore and honor the contributions of the global African Diaspora through vibrant art exhibitions, exciting performances, and educational programs at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in Harlem. The institute’s latest multimedia exhibit BYENVENI (on display until November 14, 2024) is not to be missed highlighting contemporary Haitian Diasporic art all focused on lakay (meaning home in Haitian-Kreyòl). 

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism and Before Yesterday We Could Fly at The Met (New York City)

Beige neoclassical exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the dayCredit on Instagram

Explore two groundbreaking exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opening February 25, 2024, The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism (on display through July 28, 2024) showcases some 160 works of painting, sculpture, photography, film, and ephemera, exploring the ways Black artists portrayed life in Harlem and nationwide during the 1920–1940s. Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room depicts a room from Seneca Village, a 19th-century community of Black landowners and tenants, highlighting the African and African Diasporic belief that the past, present, and future are interconnected. 

Stanley Whitney: How High the Moon at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (Greater Niagara)

Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Dive into the abstract paintings of contemporary African-American artist Stanley Whitney at How High The Moon. On display at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum until May 26, 2024, this exhibit showcases the evolution of Whitney’s unique and powerful abstractions throughout his 50-year career. As the viewer, it gives you a space to feel what it means to be human, mentally wander, and gather strength to survive. 

Hip Hop Heroes at the Hudson River Museum (Hudson Valley)

The exterior of the Hudson River Museum

Summer 2023 marked hip hop’s 50th anniversary with celebrations spanning the genre’s home state of New York. Learn even more about the popular genre at the Hudson River Museum’s Hip Hop Heroes exhibit (on display until March 3, 2024) featuring a variety of art, artifacts, and stories from the genre’s pioneers, honoring the history of hip hop in Yonkers, the Bronx, and Mount Vernon. 

Dia Beacon (Hudson Valley)

A rope holds up three clear plastic bags filled with red, orange, and clear liquidCredit: @alllllberto on Instagram

Explore remarkable sculptures from renowned Black artists at Dia: Beacon. Be sure to check out long term exhibits featuring artists like Maren Hassinger whose practice integrates performance, sculpture, fiber arts, and installation, Senga Nengudi (pictured) whose sculptures and room-sized installations are made from everyday materials like vinyl, water, nylon, and sand, and Melvin Edwards’ works crafted from welded steel, chains, and other metal objects. 

Nell Stokes at the Albany Institute of History & Art  (Capital-Saratoga)

Albany Institute of History & Art

Now through December 23, 2024, learn about Albany civil rights activist Nell Stokes at the Albany Institute of History & Art. Take a journey through her manuscripts and discover how she  created social transformation through education, working with the YWCA, NAACP, and the Albany Black Women’s Association. 

Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (New York City)

In Brooklyn, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) is a must-visit that uses the visual, literary, and performing arts to amplify Black voices and experiences. The museum, the first of its kind in New York, holds film screenings, artist-in-residence programs, and educational offerings for children, as well as revolving exhibits, that all serve to shine a light on the diverse experiences of Africans living throughout the world.

Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys at the Brooklyn Museum (New York City)

The front of Brooklyn MuseumCredit: @gallivant_gram on Instagram

Over the past five years, Kasseem Dean (better known as Swizz Beatz) and Alicia Keys have curated one of the most significant collections of work by contemporary Black artists. Now through July 7, 2024 at the Brooklyn Museum, you can view more than 100 pieces from the renowned collection at Giants which includes monumental works by Derrick Adams, Arthur Jafa, and Meleko Mokgosi. 

Finding Hidden Treasures: The Art of Samuel Adoguei at the Long Island Museum (Long Island)

Make your way to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, & Carriages for the first museum retrospective of Samuel Adoquei. Finding Hidden Treasures showcases nearly 30 works by the Ghanaian-born, New York-based painter, including 10-inch wide triptych, The Legacy and Burial of Martin Luther King, which was featured in the New York Times and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in DC.

Black-Owned Art Galleries (New York City)

From contemporary to abstract, take in all forms of art at a variety of Black-owned galleries throughout New York City. View contemporary art in Chelsea at the Black-woman-owned Nicola Vassell Gallery, in Harlem the Essie Green Galleries feature work by Black artists, fine art can be found at the Mackey Twins Art Gallery, and the Nigerian-American-owned Skoto Gallery highlights the work of contemporary African artists. For even more Black-owned art galleries in New York City, check here for a full list. 

Black Capital: Harlem in the 1920s at the New York State Museum (Capital-Saratoga)

New York State Museum buildingCredit: @oeprophoto on Instagram

Celebrate the rich and diverse culture of Harlem throughout the 1920s and 1930s at the New York State Museum in Albany. At Black Capital (ongoing), explore the history of Harlem, which was seen as a hotspot for Black culture, art, and music as well as a symbol of the African American struggle for civil and economic equality. 

From Sea to Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora at the Whaling Museum and Education Center (Long Island)

Dive into the unique role of African American mariners throughout whaling history at the Whaling Museum and Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor. Through primary source documents, artifacts, artwork, and interactive displays, From Sea to Shining Sea highlights the often forgotten Black heritage and major contributions to the industry. 

Performing Arts

Ujima Company Inc (Greater Niagara)

Rows of red upholstered seats inside the Ujima TheaterPhoto courtesy of the Lorna C. Hill Theater

Since 1978, the Ujima Company in Buffalo has been a beacon for the preservation, perpetuation, and performance of African American theatre. Throughout the year, the company puts on a variety of plays and productions showcasing the lives, struggles, and triumphs of the community. This season’s lineup includes HERstory: History Her Way (March 4-28, 2024) and Wedding Band: A Love Story in Black & White (May 3-19, 2024). 

National Black Theatre (New York City)

Founded in 1968 by award-winning performer, director, and champion of the Black Arts Movement, ​​Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, the National Black Theatre continues to tell authentic, autonomous, and multifaceted stories of the Black experience. Stop by for their 56th season, themed Defiance of Our Bloom with productions of Packages O’ The Things We Deliver (March 27-31, 2024) and Bloodwork (June 25-29, 2024) at Chelsea Factory, both of which are written by women of color.

Jordans at The Public Theater (New York City) 

Make your way to The Public Theater for a funny yet bold play written by Brooklyn-based Nigerian American, Ife Olujobi and directed by Obie Award winner Whitney White. Jordans (April 11-May 5, 2024), explores assimilation, racial capitalism, success, survival, and the true costs of “diversity” in the workplace. 

Queens Underground Black History Red Carpet Film Festival at the King Manor Museum (New York City)

Celebrate African American culture through an array of diverse selection of films at the Queens Underground International Red Carpet Black History Film Festival held at the King Manor Museum. At this exciting annual event on February 17 and April 12-13, experience the untold stories, powerful narratives, and meaningful conversations about Black history through art and film.  

Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY (Capital-Saratoga) 

Since 2010, the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY has been a place for Black artists and creatives to learn, grow, and thrive. Throughout the season, expect entertaining performances by and about artists of color including this year’s productions: One-Act Jamboree (June 6-16) and Back to the Past (June 8 and 9). 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (New York City)

A trio of dancers dressed in white costumes perform on a stage with a blue background with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been a pioneer in the performing arts for more than 65 years, using the beauty of African American heritage and other cultures to unite people of all races, ages, and backgrounds. The renowned dance company has performed for around 25 million people at theaters in 48 states, and 71 countries on six continents. This year, witness the company perform live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from June 4-9.

Shea’s Buffalo (Greater Niagara)

Night time exterior of the bright illuminated sign spelling out "Shea's Buffalo" at Shea's Buffalo

Built in 1926, the historic Shea’s Buffalo seats 3,019 people and hosts Broadway shows, local productions, dance performances, and more year-round. Take in the beautiful architecture while you enjoy some of this year’s lineup including The Prince Project (March 22), Tamia & Joe (March 30), and the Tony Award-winning MJ The Musical (June 11-16), also on Broadway. 

National Jazz Museum in Harlem (New York City)

Harlem played a major role in shaping jazz as we know it today. Explore it all and more at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem with an extensive collection that features more than 100 hours of live radio broadcasts from 1935-1941, never-before-heard concert recordings from the legendary Benny Carter, an exhibit dedicated to Sonny Allen’s Savoy Memories, and more. 

The Apollo Theater (New York City)

The marquee outside the Apollo Theater in HarlemCredit: Phoebe Baker

The legendary Apollo Theater has been the soul of American culture since 1934, showcasing the performances, achievements, and contributions of Black performers. Stop by the historic theater which has seen some of music’s greatest such as Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, and more. Catch performances throughout the year including the original Amateur Nights, which helped launch the careers of legends like Ella Fitzgerald.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York City)

Brooklyn Academy of Music BAM -  Photo by Kate Glicksberg - Courtesy of NYC & COPhoto by Kate Glicksberg, NYC Tourism

For more than 150 years the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has been a home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. Each year, the BAM presents more than 200 stage productions of theater, dance, music, opera, and film including DanceAfrica 2024 (May 24-27, 2024), Alvin Ailey (June 4-9), and kids productions like Show Way The Musical (March 16-17, 2024), and Word. Sound. Power. 2024 (April 19-20, 2024).

The Colored Musicians Club (Greater Niagara)

Mural of a row of 7 men and 1 woman on the brick exterior of the Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo.Credit: @explorebflo on Instagram

Found in Buffalo’s historic Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor is the only continuously running all-Black-owned music venue in the United States, The Colored Musicians Club. The club has seen some of jazz’s greatest like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald. Experience the iconic venue for yourself at their Sunday night jazz series, Swingin’ Through Buffalo History jazz tribute (February 21, 2024), or at the club’s jazz history museum.  

Alicia Keys’ Hell’s Kitchen (New York City)

Embrace an Empire State of Mind at Alicia Keys’ new musical Hell’s Kitchen, all about chasing your dreams, honoring your roots, and finding your voice. The production, loosely inspired by Keys’ own coming-of-age story, officially comes to Broadway’s Shubert Theater March 28, 2024 and features new arrangements of Keys’ biggest hits and a handful of new songs. 

Black Violin at the Palace Theatre Albany (Capital-Saratoga)

The exterior of the Palace Theater lit up at night

Head to Albany’s Palace Theatre on March 29, 2024 for an electrifying performance from two-time Grammy nominated duo Black Violin. Immerse yourself in a concert that blends genres with classical sounds and hip-hop beats, uniting the audience with a message of hope and possibility. 

Annual Celebrations

Buffalo Juneteenth (Greater Niagara)

Two women at the Juneteenth Festival

Buffalo’s annual Juneteenth celebration is one of the largest of its kind in the country, showcasing the unity of Buffalo’s Black community and solidarity of people from all backgrounds, religions, and neighborhoods. Don’t miss this year’s festival which takes place on June 15 and 16 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park with a parade, musical performances, food vendors, cultural activities, and more.

Rochester Juneteenth (Finger Lakes)

Commemorate Juneteenth in Rochester with a day filled with family fun events celebrating Black heritage. On June 15, enjoy a lively atmosphere with an array of delicious cuisine, kid-friendly activities, live performances, and a parade all highlighting art, culture, and unity.  

Harlem Week (New York City)

What began in 1974 as a one-day event of encouragement for the Harlem Community is now an annual 11-day extravaganza celebrating the best of Harlem. This year the iconic festival celebrates its 50th anniversary from August 7-18, 2024 with an exciting lineup of music, art, community events, delicious cuisine and more. 

Curlfest (New York City)

Get the group together and head to the world’s largest natural beauty festival, Curlfest, on July 20, 2024. Founded in 2014 by five Black women called the Curly Girl Collective, Curlfest celebrates all expressions of beauty with a variety of live performers, guest speakers, Black-owned small businesses, food trucks, and more.   

J’Ouvert and West Indian American Day Carnival (New York City)

Each Labor Day, Brooklyn comes to life with an electrifying celebration of Caribbean heritage and culture. The festivities begin bright and early at 6am with J’Ouvert (meaning daybreak in French) and continue throughout the day with the West Indian American Day Carnival. Admire the vibrant parade filled with dancing, music, dazzling outfits, food, and more all celebrating the culture of the Caribbean. 

Walking Tours

Black Gotham Experience (New York City)

Take a walking tour through African American history with the Black Gotham Experience. Choose from a variety of tours revealing the impact of the African Diaspora on New York City, highlighting the pivotal contributions and narratives of real people whose images have been erased.

The Freedom Wall (Greater Niagara)

Malcolm X painted on a mural panel for the Freedom Wall in BuffaloCredit: @chopan585 on Instagram

Stroll through large scale vibrant portraits of 28 Civil Rights leaders at the Buffalo Freedom Wall presented by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. This unique outdoor exhibit also doubles as a walking tour, featuring portraits of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., among others, all painted by four Buffalo natives. 

Harlem Heritage Tours (New York City)

Exterior of a red and gold trolley parked on the streetCredit: Harlem Heritage Tours

Travel back in time through the history and milestones of jazz, hip-hop, gospel, or the art of Harlem on an entertaining and informative journey with Harlem Heritage Tours. Choose from walking tours ranging from Civil Rights to the Harlem Renaissance to gospel, each one led by guides who were born and raised in the community. 

Explore Buffalo Community Cultural Tours (Greater Niagara) 

Discover the rich and diverse stories of the Buffalo community on a tour with Explore Buffalo. Tour topics range from anti-slavery history to African American heritage and are led by a knowledgeable guide either on foot, bike, or bus, allowing you to see the city through a new perspective. 

Reclaiming Black Spaces at the Tenement Museum (New York City)

The Tenement MuseumCredit: @kingasa on Instagram

Listen to the stories of Black New Yorkers and how their experiences shaped Lower Manhattan on the Tenement Museum's Reclaiming Black Spaces walking tour. On your journey through the neighborhood, you’ll make stops at historic sites including the former downtown New York Congress of Racial Equality Office, the firehouse of the FDNY’s first Black lieutenant, and more. 

Jackie Robinson’s Harlem at the Jackie Robinson Museum (New York City)

Jackie Robinson MuseumCredit: @ericmonacelli on Instagram

March 1 through June 30, 2024, take a self-guided walking tour of Harlem through the eyes of Jackie Robinson with the Jackie Robinson Museum. Explore Robinson’s role in the Harlem community not only as an athlete, but as an activist, citizen, businessman, and family man. You’ll make stops at sites like Jackie Robinson Park, Freedom National Bank, and more, revealing the lesser known stories about the renowned baseball player.

Hush Hip Hop Tours (New York City)

A wall full of graffitiCredit: @tobytreichler on Instagram

Travel through hip hop history in the genre’s birthplace with Hush Hip Hop tours. Choose from a variety of tours which all feature a classic hip hop soundtrack, showing the evolution of the New York artform through historic sites in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Akwaaba Tours (Finger Lakes)

Take a journey through Rochester’s African American history on an Underground Railroad tour with Akwaaba Tours. Throughout the experience, you’ll learn about the important role this city played as a stop on the Underground Railroad, following along Main Street and the Genesee River as Frederick Douglass, Austin Steward, and Harriet A. Jacobs once did.

Black History Month Tours at the Woodlawn Cemetery (New York City)

A view of fall foliage at Woodlawn Cemetery in the BronxCredit: @adrianprincessofpudding on Instagram

On February 25, 2024, commemorate Black History Month with a trolley tour of the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery, visiting the grave sites and memorials of Black leaders and legends. Led by historian and author Eric K. Washington, you’ll get to honor the final resting place of notables like Florence Mills, Duke Ellington, Madam CJ Walker, and more, and admire Woodlawn’s beautiful landscape. 

Art in the Parks, Honoring the Black Experience (New York City)

Women's Rights Pioneers MonumentCredit: @marcus_beasley_photography on Instagram

In honor of Black History Month, explore the monuments, sculptures, and murals of Black historical figures found throughout New York City parks. Follow the walking guide and learn about the life and legacy of historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and more. There’s also an extensive collection of art created by Black artists to uncover, including the Peter and Willie Monument at Prospect Park and RockIt Black by Tanda Francis at Queensbridge Park. 

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