Posts Tagged ‘NYU’

2012-01-05_19-42-58_250Despite growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania that’s rarely ever included on maps, where there’s nothing to do for miles, and whose residents don’t travel too far from home, stay away for too long, or concern themselves with art or fashion, I firmly believed a move to New York City would change my life for the better. Even before graduating from high school, I recognized my undergraduate education at The Pennsylvania State University was a stepping stone to even higher education, initially believing medical school was the next logical step after college. Like many incoming freshmen, I was under the impression only a curriculum in science could ever result in a successful career. However, everything changed with a single art history elective and a trip to New York City to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since then, more classes in the humanities have followed and have stimulated my thinking and creativity in ways science never could. Half way through my undergraduate education, I decided to change my major from premedicine to art history and even interned as a curatorial assistant for the university’s Palmer Museum of Art where I initially fell in love with working with primary documents and original artwork firsthand.

I moved to New York City soon after graduating from Penn State in order to attend the new MA Fashion Studies program at Parsons The New School for Design. Outside of the classroom I wrote concise, critical reviews on contemporary art exhibitions in and around the city for the blog M Daily, volunteered for Karen Augusta of Augusta Auctions, a rare dealer of historical textiles and antique clothing, as well as interned for the Special Collections and Archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Although I enjoyed learning more about experimental fashion and other instances of how art and fashion intersect, I truly missed learning about fine art and decided to finish my graduate education at Christie’s Education New York. In 2013, after finishing an internship with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of Christie’s Auction House, I graduated with an M.A. in The History of Art and the Art Market from Christie’s and began working as a freelance archival assistant.

My freelance positions made me realize I need to continue to strengthen my research and archival skills if I want to advance in the competitive field of modern and contemporary art and ultimately work for a museum or university collection. I’m excited to be a first-year student of NYU’s Archives and Public History graduate program, as well as a new graduate assistant at Fales Library. For this course I am looking forward to building upon my pre-existing skills, as well as learning more about digital humanities as I research the relocation of the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts to Greenwich Village in the late 1930s. This is certainly an exciting time to research Hofmann since a comprehensive catalogue raisonné on the artist, Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Suzi Villiger, was only recently published in 2014.

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It’s December in New York City, and all kinds of people are out and about decorating for the holidays and getting ready to celebrate however they traditionally do. Menorahs and Christmas lights begin appearing in windows, New Yorkers struggle to push aside the tourists in front of store windows on 34th street, and municipal employees hang lighted snowflakes on telephone poles. Whatever the season means to you, it’s hard to miss one Greenwich Village Christmas tradition being celebrated again this year: The lighting of the Washington Square Park Christmas tree.

Washington Square Christmas Tree, 2007

The Washington Square Christmas Tree in 2007. Image: Ianqui under Creative Commons.

The tradition goes back to 1924, when the Washington Square Association invited the community to be part of a Christmas celebration in the park, featuring a tree and the singing of Christmas carols.

“Gustavus T. Kirby, President of the Washington Square Association, announced that this city, like Washington, would have a permanently planted Yule-tide evergreen. The tree was selected at Amawalk, N.Y. by Francis D. Gallatin, the Park Commissioner; George D. Pratt, President of the American Forestry Association, and Mr. Kirby, and will be planted on Tuesday afternoon in Washington Square with appropriate ceremonies. The tree is the gift of Miss Evelyn W. Smith, who presented the National Tree to President Coolidge for planting in the White House grounds. New York’s spruce is a duplicate.” (New York Times, “Railroads Prepare for Christmas Rush” December 21, 1924.)

The original tree was officially presented on December 24, 1924, by Parks Commissioner Gallatin. The “appropriate ceremonies” included the lighting of the tree, which was to be equipped with “1,500 amber, green and red incandescent lights.” (New York Times, “City’s Celebration of Yuletide Begins” December 24, 1924) as well as caroling, and as the article went to press, the plan was to project the words of Christmas carols directly onto the Washington Square Arch, “…so that all present may read and sing.” The living tree, temporarily set up by the arch, was then to be planted permanently elsewhere in the park the following Monday. Unfortunately, this author cannot find any more information about the planting of the tree. However, an article entitled “Real Trees are Urged for XMas” was published in the New York Times the next year (on December 6, 1925) stating, “Each year…a cry is raised that to have Christmas trees is to endanger our waning forest resources. [Charles Lanthrop Pack, president of the American Tree Association] said, ‘Conservation is wise use. The children should have their Christmas trees.’” It seems that today’s Washington Square Christmas Tree is a cut one, but in the spirit of “wise use,” we can still hope that the original living tree was able to be planted and enjoyed for many years after its journey to New York City! And of course, every time we walk through Washington Square Park and see an evergreen, we can imagine that it’s an 87 year veteran of park life.

Although the Washington Square Association continues to host the event, over the years other members of the community have joined in the tree-lighting festivities. For example, from 1993 through 2009, New York University hosted its annual All-University Holiday Sing, with many of its musical ensembles and choirs performing.

“This sensational event brings together family and friends with reminiscent music to rouse us all into the holiday spirit. Featuring performances by NYU’s Jazz Choir, Gospel Choir, University Singers, Ani V’ata, Children’s Chorus, and the NYU Orchestra. Experience the ever-enchanting music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and let your spirit sing as the NYU Orchestra accompanies the entire audience in an engaging carol sing-a-long! Everyone who attends will receive a surprise treat!” (NYU Events Page, December 9, 2003)

According to sources at the NYU Archives, even former NYU president L. Jay Oliva joined in the fun during his tenure! The sing was held in Washington Square Park in the 1990s, often in conjunction with the caroling at the Washington Square Tree Lighting, and continued to be held inside in later years. The last Holiday Sing in evidence on NYU’s events calendar took place on December 8, 2009, in the Loewe Theater on West 4th Street, seemingly signifying the demise of the holiday tradition.

Although NYU’s All-University Holiday Sing seems to have been discontinued (and readers, please correct me if I’m wrong) the Washington Square Christmas Tree Lighting is still going strong, and the tree was lit this year on December 7th, despite rainy weather. Caroling is planned for December 24th, if anyone is inclined to see the tree for themselves.

Here’s to hoping all our readers have a great holiday, however they do or don’t celebrate, and that all students have a stress-free winter break! Happy holidays from Greenwich Village!

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Sylvia Rivera (Image courtesty of NYPL)

One year after the Stonewall Rebellion, on June 28th 1970, the Gay Activists Alliance hosted a successful dance in the basement of Weinstein Hall, a New York University residence building located on West 11th Street. At this time, Greenwich Village was home to the largest gay, lesbian and transgender community in the world, and was in dire need of social services, as well as spaces to host public gatherings. The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee (CSLDC), organizers of the Stonewall Parade, decided to coordinate a series of four additional dances, to be held at Weinstein Hall as fundraisers for legal, medical and housing services for the gay community. The “Dance-a-Fairs” were booked with the Weinstein Hall Student Governing Association for the Friday evenings between August 7th and September 4th 1970.

The first two Dance-a-Fairs were held successfully, and without comment from the NYU administration. However, on the eve the third dance, to be held on August 21st, the NYU administration and trustees announced that the remaining two dances would be cancelled, and that the student government of Weinstein Hall did not have the authority to negotiate with non-university organizations. With the help of a New York Civil Liberties lawyer, the NYU administration was convinced to allow the third dance to proceed. The CSLDC secured the sponsorship of an NYU student group, Gay Student Liberation, for the final dance on August 28th. However, as the fall semester approached, the NYU administration closed all university facilities to gay social functions until a panel of ministers and psychologists determined whether homosexuality was “morally acceptable.” The administration was particularly concerned about the impact of gay dances on impressionable freshmen.

The evening of August 28th witnessed a small but angry demonstration outside Weinstein Hall. City police were called, and a group of representatives from the gay community went to meet with NYU Dean Harold Whiteman. Gay Flame described the event:

We told him it was Weinstein Hall or stormy weather. He looked at us and he knew we meant it. We weren’t hiding in our closets and we had a foot wedged in his. So, after a little while, he gave in and said we’d have it. We ran back over and told the people who were still marching the news. Another win for GAY POWER. We had met the enemy and the hall is ours![1]

The remaining protesters entered the hall for a small dance party that evening, but the ban on gay social functions at the university remained in place.

Meeting of gay activists at Weinstein Hall (Image courtesy of NYPL)

Three weeks later, a meeting of the NYU group Gay Student Liberation decided to call for an immediate occupation of Weinstein Hall, in response to the administration’s discriminatory conduct toward gay, lesbian and transgender functions on campus. A liaison was sent to a Gay Liberation Front meeting to request additional volunteers. Within hours there were almost 70 people in the cavernous hall, including transgender activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. The five-day event was an open occupation, and activists came and went from the hall, meeting with students from the residence building, flyering the university and holding public teach-ins on gay liberation. Student representatives met and voted to support the strike, providing blankets for the occupiers as the administration attempted to freeze them out by turning up the air-conditioning in the hall. Two days later, a mass meeting of students and occupiers decided to organize a dance in Weinstein Hall for the evening of Friday, September 25th.

At 2:30pm on the afternoon of the dance, NYU administration called New York City’s Tactical Police Squad. With all doors to the hall barricaded except one, riot police gave the occupiers ten seconds to vacate the hall, in what was described “as the most frightening, naked display of antihomosexual power” that had ever been seen.[2] Sylvia Rivera refused to leave, and was carried out by police. NYU’s homophobic policies and the violent actions of the city police led to a series of demonstrations against the university, beginning that evening in Greenwich Village. Further demonstrations were held at NYU’s Bellevue Hospital, which practiced shock therapy treatment on homosexual psychiatry patients and at the NYU Student Center, where protesters presented the university with a list of demands. Included in the demands were: the use of university facilities by the gay community, open admissions and free tuition for gay people and all other oppressed communities, the discussion of homosexuality in relevant courses and the end of oppressive treatment of gay patients at Bellevue Hospital.

Marsha P. Johnson (Image Courtesy of NYPL)

The occupation of Weinstein Hall was primarily led by transgender people of color and women. Emerging from the occupation was the formation of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. STAR focused on the needs of homeless transgender sex workers; providing shelter, food and legal support. STAR also worked to combat discrimination within the gay community.

The sit-in at Weinstein Hall by gay, lesbian and transgender activists and their allies is one in a long history of occupation in New York City in pursuit of social and economic justice.

[1] Teal, Donn. The Gay Militants (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1971), 205.

[2] Murphey, John. Homosexual Liberation: A Personal View (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971), 123.


Bell, Arthur. Dancing the Gay Lib Blues: A Year in the Homosexual Liberation Movement. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Duberman, Martin. Stonewall. New York: Penguin Group, 1993.

Murphey, John. Homosexual Liberation: A Personal View. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.

Out History. “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.” http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Street_Transvestite_Action_Revolutionaries. Accessed December 10, 2011.

Teal, Donn. The Gay Militants. New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1971.

For more information about STAR please see:

Cohen, Steven L. Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail. Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 2007.

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Today I thought I’d write a little about the U.S. Census, one of the sources I’ve been using in my research on Washington Square Village, a middle-income housing complex now owned by NYU. I specifically want to talk about using the Census as a visual tool, and how it can be used to discuss the design of Washington Square Village, and how construction of the complex and others like it affect neighborhoods.

When Washington Square Village was proposed in 1957, it was designed as a “superblock” style development, like other low and middle-income housing projects such as the Lillian Wald Houses in the Lower East Side, completed in 1949.  This meant that a large section of land, multiple square blocks, was to be cleared and replaced with massive apartment buildings set in a green space. Washington Square Village, when it was built, would take up three entire blocks. Greene and Wooster Streets, which once ran through the site, became driveways, and the complex is now bordered by LaGuardia Place (formerly West Broadway), Mercer Street, West 3rd Street, and Bleecker Street.

Rochdale VillageWhile I am still researching the reasons why Washington Square Village specifically was built, we can use the histories of other developments to help us understand why low and middle income superblock complexes were built elsewhere in New York City.


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–One of the exhibits created by students in the Creating Digital History course.–

From the President’s Desk: NYU and the Anti-war Movement

by Laura Gibson

The Vietnam War produced domestic unrest, especially on college campuses in America. This website is the history of the anti-war movement, focusing on the years 1967-1970, as seen through the papers of James Hester, president of New York University from 1962-1975. While this is not an encyclopedic look at the anti-war movement, it does provide a unique perspective on the events of the late 1960s.

To see the exhibit go to http://aphdigital.org/GVH/exhibits/show/nyuandantivietnammovement

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