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A Look Back at 2015 Programs

Original Whitney Museum on West 8th Street
Original Whitney Museum on West 8th Street

As 2015 comes to a close and 2016 approaches, here is a look back at GVSHP’s public programs for 2015. In all, we produced or co-sponsored 60 programs that drew almost 5,000 attendees. Our programs consisted of slideshows, lectures, book talks, panel discussions, interviews, museum visits, walking tours, and other formats. We chose different venues from the East Village to the West Village, and all points in between. Our programs are always free and open to the public, except for the bi-monthly “members-only” programs, which are reserved for GVSHP members.

In January art historian Avis Berman introduced us to the life and works of painter William Glackens, a Greenwich Village resident and member of the Ashcan School. In May, she returned to present a history of the original Whitney Museum of American Art, which was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney on West 8th Street. After relocating to the Upper East Side in 1966, the Whitney returned to Greenwich Village this year with much fanfare, on the site of the historic Gansevoort Market.

In March we celebrated Women’s History Month with John Strausbaugh’s program about the life and times of infamous NoHo resident Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States. John is the author of the book, The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues. Also in March, historian and tour guide Joyce Gold introduced us to “The Immigrant, Radical, Notorious Women of Washington Square” – a program so popular we had to repeat it a few weeks ago.

At 10th St and Greenwich Ave, demolishers dismantle a former sculptor's studio, the facade of which is painted with the slogans 'Save the Village' and 'Wake Up Mr. Mayor!' New York, New York, May 16, 1960. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)
At 10th St and Greenwich Ave, demolishers dismantle a former sculptor’s studio, the facade of which is painted with the slogans ‘Save the Village’ and ‘Wake Up Mr. Mayor!’ New York, New York, May 19, 1960. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

We enjoyed some wonderful photography this past year, with a members-only gallery visit in June to an exhibit of photos by the late Fred McDarrah. Fred was the photographer for the Village Voice or many years and caught so many images of this area during the 1960’s and 70’s. Photographer Dan Root amazed us with before-&-after photos of the East Village taken in 1984 and 2014. If you didn’t already know that a lot of change has occurred in the East Village in the last 30 years, these images proved it. And in July, photographer Efrain Gonzalez shared images of nighttime street life in the Meatpacking District taken in the 1980’s. Both Dan and Efrain are working on books and we hope to have them back when those are published.

The Greenwich Village area has long been known for culture and creativity, and this year we visited 3 very different theaters. HB Studio at 120 Bank Street was founded in 1945, but in 1965 Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen established the Playwrights Theater in a former garage at 124 Bank Street. (Berghof earned enough money working on the film Cleopatra to buy the garage.) HB Trustee Alan Pally recounted the history of HB at this September program, and veteran actors Fritz Weaver and Rochelle Oliver mesmerized us with dramatic monologues.

In October we shifted to the East Village where Theater for the New City has operated on First Avenue since 1986. Originally founded in 1971 in the West Village, TNC transformed the space of the former First Avenue Retail Market into 4 performance venues and a gallery, and has earned 43 Obie Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Co-founder and Artistic Director Crystal Field put together some images to help her tell the story of over 40 years of theater history.

In November, the New Ohio Theatre, located in the historic Archive Building in the West Village, welcomed us with a program about its history, its move from SoHo to the West Village, and a story of survival and reinvention. We hope to visit more theaters in 2016.

Our Historic Plaque Program, a partnership with Two Boots, celebrated Greenwich Village notables James Baldwin and Martha Graham. Baldwin was born in Harlem but lived in the Village in the late 1950’s and early 1960s, and Graham’s studio on 5th Avenue near 13th Street is now part of The New School.

Merchant's House Museum on East 4th Street
Merchant’s House Museum on East 4th Street

We also enjoyed the great outdoors with some walking tours of the East Village Community Gardens, the NoHo Historic District, and historic German buildings in the East Village. Ayo Harrington of Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens led us through the verdant patchwork of small, diverse greenspaces that dot the East Village in May, and again in August. In July we walked along 2nd Avenue, St. Marks Place, the Bowery, East 4th Street, and East 6th Street, over to Tompkins Square Park to see some wonderful buildings erected by German immigrants of the 19th century. In September, our friends at the Merchant’s House Museum guided us around the NoHo Historic District, which was designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1999.

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the NYC Landmarks Law, so in April we asked our friend and advisor Anthony Wood to talk about the impact or preservation efforts on Greenwich Village and the East Village. Tony is the author of the book Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks, so you could say he literally wrote the book on this topic. We also co-sponsored a series at the Museum of the City of New York called “Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks.” And in June we joined forces with the Neighborhood Preservation Center and the Village Alliance to present a program called “Building History Detective” to educate the public about what online tools are available for researching these historic buildings that we work so hard to preserve.

To see more about these and other programs, please visit the Past Programs page of our website. You may also see photos of past programs here, and videos of past programs here. And be sure to visit our Upcoming Programs page frequently, so you won’t miss the exciting programs of 2016.

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