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2022 Village Awardee: Jane Friedman and Howl! Arts

Each year, Village Preservation honors the invaluable people, businesses, and organizations that make a special contribution to our neighborhoods at our Annual Meeting and Village Awards. This year, on June 14, 2022, at 6 PM we will be celebrating seven outstanding awardees — RSVP HERE to attend in person and HERE to participate virtually via livestream.

The non-profit Howl! Arts has, since its founding in 2015 by Jane Friedman, pursued the noble mission of nurturing the creative culture of the East Village and preserving the rich artistic heritage of the neighborhood. Taking its name and guiding spirit from ‘Howl,’ the epic poem and paean to creative freedom and rebellion by Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) the organization has already held over 500 events and played a major role in helping the East Village remain a hotbed of artistic activity. 

Howl! Arts grew out of the Howl Festival, a vital gathering held annually in Tompkins Square Park during the 1990s and early 2000s that became an integral part of the cultural landscape of the neighborhood. As stricter city ordinances complicated the organization of the event, its producer Jane Friedman decided that it would be simpler and more impactful to make the festival a local fixture. With this in mind, she searched for a gallery space in the neighborhood and drew from her substantial connections to the downtown arts world to give the festival an ongoing presence, while establishing more ways to support the current creative community and preserve the legacy of past ones. 

Howl Festival

The Howl! Arts gallery space, Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project, located at 6 East 1st Street, presents exhibitions of painting, sculpture, video and photography work by artists who lived and created in the neighborhood and by those who still do so. Howl! Arts has presented over 100 gallery shows since its inception, highlighting individuals and institutions such as The Pyramid Club, The East Village Eye newspaper, Ethyl Eichylberger, John Kelly, Lydia Lunch, Godlis, Jackie Curtis, and Punk magazine. These shows have drawn overflow crowds, garnered enthusiastic reviews from local and national media, and become a focal point for the East Village creative community.

James Rubio Exhibit

In addition to the gallery shows, the space has been used for a wide variety of events, including lectures, panel discussions, dance and music performances, films, symposia, book launches, poetry readings, and celebrations. One notable event celebrated the 100th birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the celebrated poet and owner of City Lights books. Another is the annual celebration of Allen Ginsberg’s birthday (June 3), during which his spirit is invoked. Because these events are free of charge, they attract a widely diverse audience. To further expand the reach of its programming, the organization livestreams events through Howl! TV, a platform dedicated to making live and archival programs remotely accessible. During the pandemic, this allowed the gallery to continue pursuing its mission despite the limitations imposed on social gatherings.

Allen Ginsberg Birthday Celebration

Howl! Arts strives to complement its events with educational efforts. The shows themselves feature well-researched, professionally designed catalogs with scholarly essays that contextualize the art on display and explain its importance. These publications are creating a valuable record of the significant work that has emerged from the neighborhood. Beyond its publications, the organization has also tried to fill in the gap in public high school arts education by organizing a series of free, artist-taught, hand-on classes that offer an overview of the history of art in the neighborhood and foster the creative talent and ambitions of class participants. 

To further support the local artist community, the organization has partnered with the Actor’s Fund to launch the Howl! Emergency Life Project, a series of programs that offer a sort of safety net to local artists, counseling them on personal and work-related problems, and connecting them to public resources relating to legal and medical services. The initiative also extends emergency grants to members of the community struggling with basic living expenses. 

This past year Howl! Arts opened a second space, located at 250 Bowery, in order to expand its exhibition space and programming capacity. The venue will also house Howl! Arts/ Howl Archive, (HA/HA), an archive project that already contains the personal records of several local artists, including Candy Darling, Tom Murrin, and Arturo Vega, among others, as well as an extensive collection of writings by authors who lived and created in the area. Its collection, which contains over 3,000 objects (and growing) that are gradually being made available online, will serve as an invaluable resource for future research on the many cultural and social movements that took off in the neighborhood. 

Rendering of HA/HA education space

Jane’s steadfast dedication to supporting the neighborhood’s creative community and to honoring the artistic history of the East Village has made her vision for Howl! Arts a reality.  Even during the pandemic, the organization continued to function in various capacities, pursuing its mission even as the crisis severely diminished cultural outlets across the city. At our current juncture, her organization’s role as a steward and promoter of the arts in the neighborhood has become increasingly essential. And we as a community are all the richer for Jane’s passionate commitment to promoting the cultural vibrancy of the East Village past, present, and future. For these reasons, we are delighted to be awarding Jane Friedman and Howl! Arts with this year’s Regina Kellerman Award.

Don’t miss out when Jane Friedman and Howl! Arts accept their award on June 14th. RSVP HERE to attend in person and HERE to participate virtually via livestream. Learn more about our annual meeting and awards, including past awardees and videos of past ceremonies, here.

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