Free events ring in big 5-0 for Lincoln Center

You don't need theater, opera or ballet tickets to attend Lincoln Center's 50th birthday party.

A year-long celebration kicks off Monday with a private ceremony at Alice Tully Hall, which recently reopened after a $159 million renovation. But "openness and ease of access" are behind the new features being introduced at New York's world-famous performing arts center, says its president, Reynold Levy.

"Everything we're doing is designed to accommodate more people."

That includes free performances, exhibits and other attractions. At the nearby Time Warner Center, works by contemporary visual artists from the Lincoln Center List Poster and Print Program will be on display June 1-21.

On June 9, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble will entertain the public at the newly restored Guggenheim Bandshell in the complex's Damrosch Park section. (The concert will be one of six anniversary-pegged shows on the PBS series Live From Lincoln Center.)

Certain performances in August's Lincoln Center Out of Doors series also are pegged to the anniversary, among them opening night, featuring jazz legend Dave Brubeck's quartet.

The popular Mostly Mozart Festival, also in August, and July's Midsummer Night Swing series are not among the freebies. The latter will feature a newly expanded outdoor dance floor, though; as usual, it costs nothing to observe.

"The entire campus is more hospitable now," says Jennifer Berry, director of visitor services. "There are more places to linger," including movable chairs in some places so that visitors "can create their own clusters" as they chat or grab a quick bite.

In addition to picnics, dining options include at65, a moderately priced, glass-enclosed café and bar in the foyer of the new Alice Tully Hall; and the more upscale Arpeggio in Avery Fisher Hall. Another restaurant is under construction near the Walter Reade Theater, where the Film Society of Lincoln Center offers a 50-hour movie musical marathon July 3-5.

Starting in November, anyone wishing to buy tickets to events at Lincoln Center's constituent organizations can do so in a new, 7,000-foot visitor space, where advance seating can be arranged at "high-tech kiosks" and same-day tickets purchased at discount prices, Berry says.

The space also provides a place where, Levy says, "people can hang out, whether they're talking about a performance or anticipating one."