Judson Memorial Church
Beginning in the 1950s, the Judson Memorial Church has supported a radical arts ministry, first led by associate pastor Bernard Scott and subsequently by associate pastor Al Carmines. The church made space available to artists for art exhibitions, rehearsals, and performances. The church also assured that this space was to be a place where these artists could have the freedom to experiment in their work without fear of censorship. In 1957, the Judson Memorial Church offered gallery space to Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, and Robert Rauschenberg, who were then unknown artists. In 1959, the Judson Gallery showed work by pop artists, Tom Wesselmann, Daniel Spoerri, and Red Grooms. Yoko Ono also had her work exhibited at the Judson gallery.
The Judson Dance Theater, which began in 1962, provided a venue for dancers and choreographers such as Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton, David Gordon, and Yvonne Rainer to create and show their work. Among others, these dancers and choreographers shaped dance history by creating postmodern dance, the first avant-garde movement in dance theater since the modern dance of the 1930s and 1940s. For the past 20 years or so, Movement Research has presented concerts of experimental dance at Judson on Monday evenings during the academic year. - In the 1970s, the Judson Memorial Church hosted various art shows and multimedia events. Most notable among these multimedia events was the People's Flag Show of November 1970, a six-day exhibition of painting and sculpture on the theme of the American flag. The exhibit and the accompanying symposium, featuring speeches by Abbie Hoffman and Kate Millet, attracted widespread attention from the public, the press, and the police. During the final days of the exhibit, three of the contributing artists were arrested, both pastors (Moody and Carmines) were given summons (not followed up), and the District Attorney closed the exhibit on charges of desecration of the American flag.
The Judson Poets' Theatre began in the 1960s as one of three off-off-Broadway venues (the others were Cafe Cino and La Mama). Experimental plays and musicals by later-famous authors and directors, including Sam Shepherd, Lanford Wilson and Tom O'Horgan, were presented in the church's main Meeting Room. Starting in the late 1960s, Al Carmines began writing and producing his own musicals, and later, "oratorios" that used large volunteer choruses. Especially notable were several shows using texts by Gertrude Stein, music by Carmines, with direction by the Judson Poets Theatre director Lawrence Kornfeld.
In the 1980s, the Judson Memorial Church sponsored various political theater performances, such as those by the Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater. These performances included Insurrection Opera and Oratorio, performed in February and March 1984. In this performance, the Bread and Puppet Theater, under the direction of founder, Peter Schumann, used opera and the company's now signature oversized puppets to convey an anti-nuclear message.
The Judson Memorial Church celebrated its Centennial in 1990 with performances and symposia involving many of the artists who had been involved with the arts ministry in the 1960s and 1970s.
More recently, the church hosted a five-night stand by Montreal band Arcade Fire from February 13 through 17th, 2007.