Monday, March 5, 2018

Six houses of worship where artists and musicians can borrow the basement

By Elena Goukassian
Acts of Live Art at Club 57. Pictured: Larry Ashton. 1980. Photo: Joesph Szkodzinski. Courtesy Joesph Szkodzinski. Located in the basement of a Polish Church at 57 St. Marks Place, Club 57 (1978–83) was a center of creative activity in the East Village, Club 57 and is said to have influenced virtually every club that came in its wake.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the underground art and music scenes were often literally that — underground. Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983, currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art, celebrates a New York nightclub that thrived in the basement of Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church — and once hosted the likes of Keith Haring, RuPaul, Fab Five Freddy, and Madonna. Although 57 St. Mark’s Place hasn’t served as a religious space for many years, other houses of worship in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC continue to open their basement doors to artists, musicians, and performers, regardless of their religious affiliations. So if you’re looking for a community-minded space to host your next art show, band, or performance, take note. Here are six spaces that welcome event ideas of all kinds. [More]
  1. Last year, the Church of the Village hosted David McDermott and Peter McGough’s Oscar Wilde Temple in its basement.
  2. Just across the street from Washington Square Park, the Judson Memorial Church has been hosting experimental art events for over 50 years.
  3. Among the many community events at Park Church Co-op, one of the oddest is a pitch-black basement dance party called “No Lights, No Lycra.”
  4. Since the 1990s, local DIY promoter R5 Productions has been booking indie and punk bands to play low-key, all-ages shows in the basement of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.
  5. Although the DC institution has rebranded itself under the less religious name “Sixth & I,” it’s still as much a functioning synagogue as it is an events space.
  6. Known colloquially as St. Stephen’s, this DC church has hosted all kinds of underground culture in its basement: an activist collective, hacker space, punk shows, and a hip-hop conference, among many others.