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The Annual Village Awards: Spotlight on the Regina Kellerman Award for Preservation

2023 Annual Meeting and Village Awards

One of Village Preservation’s most beloved traditions is our Annual Meeting and Village Awards, in which we celebrate our achievements of the past year, and honor invaluable local leaders, institutions, businesses, places, and organizations in our neighborhoods. Fondly referred to as the “Oscars of the Village,” these awards showcase the remarkable people and places that have made a significant contribution to the special quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo.

Nominations are now open for the 2024 Village Awards! Through March 11th, you can nominate a local small business, resident, community group, public space, new design, or restoration by filling out this form.

Regina Kellerman, Village Preservation’s First Executive Director (left), at the Sheridan Square Dig in 1982, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

Each year, one Village Awardee is presented with the Regina Kellerman Award, named in honor of Village Preservation’s first Executive Director. Regina was a passionate advocate for historic preservation, and the awardee is chosen for their exemplification of her vision for preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of our neighborhoods.

To give you a bit of inspiration, we’ve rounded up a selection of past Regina Kellerman Award winners:

2023: La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club

LaMama Experimental Theatre Club at 74 East 4th Street, before and after renovation.

In 2023, the Regina Kellerman Award went to La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, for the beautiful and lovingly executed restoration they undertook of 74A East 4th Street, the theater’s first and current permanent home.

Founded in 1961 by theater legend Ellen Stewart, La MaMa ETC is the only original Off-Off-Broadway venue still in operation. Ellen established La MaMa as a haven for underrepresented artists to experiment with new work without the pressures of commercial success. Since 1967, the theater has been located at 74 East 4th Street, a four-story red brick-clad building designed by German-born architect August H. Blankenstein and constructed in 1873.

The theater reopened in February 2023, following a $24 million renovation by architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle. The interior was gut renovated to accommodate updated technology and state-of-the-art amenities, as well as ADA accessibility, and the original façade was thoughtfully and painstakingly restored.

2019: Estate of Fred W. McDarrah

Jimi Hendrix with producer/engineer Eddie Kramer (l.) and studio manager Jim Marron in Hendrix’s still under construction Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village, 1970. © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

The 2019 Regina Kellerman Award was presented to the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah – his wife Gloria, and sons Tim and Patrick – for sharing the work of the incredible photographic chronicler of late 20th-century downtown life, and using that legacy to support worthy causes including historic preservation and civil rights.

Fred W. McDarrah was the first and primary photographer for the Village Voice for decades beginning in 1955, covering Village counterculture, Gay Rights, Women’s Rights, the Vietnam War, Experimental Theater, and other movements centered around the Village because, as he noted, it was home to “the most colorful community of interesting people, fascinating places, and dynamic ideas.”

Fred passed away in 2007 at the age of 81. Since then, the Estate has actively allowed photographs to be used for the cause of preservation, and we are lucky to have this incredible resource available to us: many of his images are now part of Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive. You can also learn more about Fred and Gloria’s fascinating life and work in the Village, by listening to the fantastic oral history she conducted with us in 2014.

2015: James and Karla Murray

The 2015 Regina Kellerman Award winner was the artistic husband-and-wife duo James and Karla Murray. East Village residents since the early 1990s, what began as a personal interest in documenting their surroundings and vanishing local businesses has turned into three published books and many exhibitions. They made it their mission to thoroughly document unique ‘mom-and-pop’ stores when they began to notice the alarming rate at which the shops were disappearing.

We’ve had the honor of hosting many events with James and Karla, including a recent book talk to learn about their latest collection of popular and critically acclaimed photographs, published in 2023. Watch the recording of this program here.

2010: Westbeth Artists’ Housing

Westbeth Courtyard from the top of the ramp, photograph by Ezra Stoller.

In 2010, the Regina Kellerman Village Award went to Westbeth Artists’ Housing. The very next year, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate Westbeth as an individual landmark, the culmination of a campaign spearheaded by Village Preservation to extend landmark protections in the Far West Village.

Westbeth is a singularly important historic site. Between 1965 and 1970, the abandoned Bell Telephone Labs between Bethune and Bank Streets along the western edge of Manhattan were converted by then-unknown architect Richard Meier into Westbeth, the country’s first subsidized housing complex for artists, and the first large-scale adaptive reuse of an industrial building for residential purposes. One of the first residential developments along the Greenwich Village waterfront, Westbeth began the transformation of this formerly industrial area into a vibrant residential community. Westbeth remains an affordable housing complex for more than 350 working artists, providing live/work spaces, studios, and galleries.

We are counting down the days to our 44th Annual Members’ Meeting and 34th Village Awards, which will take place on June 12, 2024, at The Cooper Union’s Great Hall.

It is a free public event that highlights and celebrates those who make our neighborhoods some of the most interesting and exceptional in the city, and it’s always a joyful affair! Nominate your favorite local business or organization for a Village Award here, and we hope to see you on June 12th.

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