Judson Memorial Church
- Julia Robinson
American artists’ space located at 239 Thompson Street at the south edge of Washington Square in New York City. Beginning in the late 1950s the Judson Church hosted experimental avant-garde activities—art installations, Happenings, the beginnings of postmodern dance—launching a now celebrated group of artists, dancers, poets and composers, and fueling the radical downtown art scene. The platform of free expression Judson provided for the untested work of the 1960s generation, at a time when these artists were far from established, was a critical contribution to the invention, originality and ultimate international renown of these preeminent American artists.
Built in 1890 and designed by the renowned architect Stanford White (of McKim, Mead & White), the church’s original mission was to serve the immigrant population of Lower Manhattan with health and recreational programs as well as religious services. In the 1950s Reverend Bob Spike (1949–55) asked his seminary intern, Budd Scott, to go into the neighborhood and spend time with the locals—including a significant contingent of struggling artists—to discover their needs. Scott found out that the artists urgently needed a place to present their work. Judson’s national reputation for fostering radical artistic practice came under the tenure of Reverend Howard Moody (...