Honor Our LGBT Elders Day is celebrated each year on May 16th. While every day is a good day to pay tribute to those who have paved the way for the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) community, it is also fitting to set aside a special day to honor and celebrate the courage, persistence, passion, and authenticity of those who have worked and continue to work toward equality and justice in all its iterations. Today we honor our President Emeritus, Arthur A. Levin, a stalwart community leader for decades, defender of civil rights, and champion of social justice.
Art grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After attending Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and serving in the US Army for two years, he came back to Manhattan and chose to live in Greenwich Village. By 1969, he had bought a house on West 11th Street where he continued to live until 2022.
Art’s involvement in the Village began with progressive politics, through which he met Rev. Howard Moody, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church. Levin approached Moody about working together on social programs. Out of this partnership came a number of public health programs serving runaway teenagers who were living on the streets near the Church; these programs included Judson Arts Workshop, a free medical clinic (that would eventually become Betances Health Center), and a runaway program where Art was the director. The runaway house was a place where teenagers could get off the street and stay for a few days while the staff helped them consider their options and decisions. A small group of young people ended up staying more than a few days and became official residents. They attended school or went to work, and it was a safe space where their parents knew where they were. A staff of five or six acted as counselors and house parents.
A critical area of focus for Art and Rev. Moody was advocating for reproductive rights and, in particular, access to safe abortion services, which was then illegal throughout the United States. When such advocacy led to the legalization of abortion in New York State in 1970, Levin and Moody established the first abortion clinic licensed by the city and the state.
Levin and Moody also established the Center for Medical Consumers in 1976, a free medical library with information on health care and treatments enabling patients to be more proactive and knowledgeable about medical care.
Art Levin has been a valued member of the Board of Trustees since 1998, and served as President of the Board from 2011 to 2021 — the longest tenure of any president in the organization’s history. Art led the organization as President of the Board of Trustees through some of its greatest triumphs, including the designation of the Stonewall Inn and other LGBTQ+ landmarks, the designation of Phases 2 and 3 of our proposed South Village Historic District, saving the homes of Frank Stella and Willem De Kooning from the wrecking ball, among many other initiatives. He also led the organization through a successful rebranding, name change, and launch of a new website, all initiatives of tremendous consequence to the organization and its future.
Most recently, Art has been a visionary supporter of our interactive outdoor public art and history exhibition, VILLAGE VOICES and VILLAGE VOICES II. He was instrumental in helping to realize our installation “A Monument to Choice,” conceived and designed by our amazing friends at Doyle Partners in honor of Art Levin, and mounted in Gansevoort Plaza in cooperation with the Meatpacking BID.
A number of our vast resources were also created and flourished under Art’s tenure as a Trustee and President of Village Preservation. The links below will take you to a few of those resources. While you are on our website, be sure to explore all there is to see and learn from.
Village Preservation’s board, staff, and the community owe Art a deep debt of gratitude for his invaluable leadership, contributions of time, expertise, patience, goodwill, and humor. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember and pay tribute to our history and to those who have helped shape our society. We salute Art Levin for his leadership and commitment to community and social justice.