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The Church of Art

Judson

For me, the closest I get to religion is in art history class, with creepers like Jan Van Eyck and of course Hieronymous Bosch. But of course leave it to New York to have a church that supports modern artists, whose work isn’t necessarily focused on religion. Since the 1950s, the historic Judson Memorial Church off Washington Square South has been one of the only places of worship to support a radical arts ministry, providing a venue for artists to showcase work without the fear of censorship. The program started in 1957 when the church offered  Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine and Robert Rauschenberg their first ever show, in the church gallery. This was one of the first chances for the then-unknown artists to show their work, and also set a precedent for the church’s arts-related future.  The gallery has since shown pop artists Red Grooms, Daniel Spoerri and Tom Wesselmann, as well as Yoko Ono, and has been known to push the limits of art, even staging an American flag show in 1970 that resulting in three artists being arrested and the pastors receiving summons due to charges of “desecration of the American flag.” The church has since expanded to include theater, poetry and music programs in addition to fostering visual art. Oldenberg’s centennial drawing for the church has since become it’s logo.

judson2

The church itself was built in 1896, and has stained glass by La Farge and a marble frieze by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

What: Judson Memorial Church and gallery

Where: 55 Washington Square S, New York, NY 10012

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