Judson Memorial Church Opens its Doors to Artists

Judson Memorial Church Opens its Doors to Artists

At the same time that these adventurous playwrights were presenting their work at Caffe Cino and Café La MaMa, an unlikely outlet opened its doors to Village artists of all kinds. “Judson Memorial Church was so pivotal to the foundation of downtown because they were so open to freedom of expression,” said Agosto Machado. “They encouraged expression and let so many people in all the art movements do their thing. They took away the pews. They had Happenings. There was dance, movement, song. Gender preferences did not matter to the church.” For example, Al Carmines, Judson’s openly gay minister (who was also a musician), staged material that could’ve gotten him arrested for obscenity elsewhere. “The painters, the sculptors, the actors, the playwrights,” director Larry Kornfeld said, “everybody at Judson were involved in exploring and extending mediums and the blending of them.” Kornfeld—who saw himself as “a sculptor of space”—was deeply influenced by Merce Cunningham’s and John Cage’s spatial and temporal explorations. “Space was being explored by painters who were at the theater, people like Rauschenberg, who did sets for us. People were always at each other’s shows, recitals, performances. They were drinking together, screwing together. There was a vast interchange of information and activity. It was a community, an anarchic community.”

From Chapter 9 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square S, New York, NY 10012