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Novella Nelson and the Black Arts Movement in the Lower East Side

April 11 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Celebrate the work of actor, singer, poet, and director Novella Nelson and her impact on the Black Arts Movement in the East Village.

Although the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s is often understood as being centered in Harlem, a number of prominent Black artists of the mid-20th century were firmly based in the downtown and Village art scene. One of the most prominent and prolific of these Lower East Side artists was Novella Nelson, an actor, singer, poet, and director who worked at many of the most prominent venues in the area. Although Nelson also participated in mainstream work, appearing in the original Broadway cast of Purlie and in popular film and television, she was by nature an experimentalist whose creative output challenged the traditional narrative of the downtown theatre scene. In 2023, Nelson’s archive was preserved in the Billy Rose Theatre Division, and will soon be available to researchers.

This event will celebrate Nelson’s work, contextualizing her as standing apart from, and providing dimension to, the Harlem-based Black Arts Movement


SEATING POLICY | Programs are free and open to all, but registration is requested. Check-in line forms 45 minutes before the advertised start time. Registered guests are given priority check-in 15 to 30 minutes before start time. Five minutes before the advertised start time, all seats are released, regardless of registration, to our patrons in the stand-by line. If you arrive after the program starts, you will be seated at the discretion of our front-of-house staff.

STANDBY LINE | If registration is sold out or has ended, do not fret! We welcome you to come to the Library regardless of registration status and wait in our standby line, which forms 45 minutes before the advertised start time. Five minutes before the program starts, all remaining seats are released. While this is not guaranteed, we will do our best to get you into any of our programs.

ASSISTIVE LISTENING AND ASL | ASL interpretation and real-time (CART) captioning available upon request. Please submit your request at least two weeks in advance by emailing

BRUNO WALTER POLICY | Please note that any unoccupied seat will be released five minutes before the show begins and holding seats for anyone beyond that is prohibited. There is no food or drink allowed inside the venue.

AUDIO/VIDEO RECORDING | Programs may be photographed and recorded by and at the discretion of the Library for the Performing Arts and will post signs indicating as such. If you would prefer your image not be captured, please let us know and we can seat you accordingly. Attending any program indicates your consent to being filmed/photographed and your consent to the use of your recorded image for any and all purposes of the New York Public Library.

PRESS | Please send all press inquiries to Alex Teplitzky at Please note that all recording, including professional video recordings, are prohibited without expressed consent from the Library.

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