Among the many delights included in this weekend’s Open House New York will be three iconic Greenwich Village buildings–a Gothic Revival church with many architectural firsts, a library that was originally a courthouse which heard the “Trial of the Century,” and a groundbreaking artists’ housing complex that was formerly home to Bell Telephone Labs and the site where color television was invented. These extraordinary landmarks span three centuries of American history, reflecting the evolution of our city’s spiritual, artistic, industrial, scientific, and civic life.
Westbeth Artists Housing
Our ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of 6sqft’s friends, family and fellow New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to Westbeth Artists Housing in the West Village. Want your home to be featured here? Get in touch!
When the old Bell Telephone Laboratories building was transformed to the Westbeth affordable artists’ housing in 1970, one of the original creatives to move in was Ralph Lee, a theater jack-of-all trades who is best known for his larger-than-life puppets and masks. His whimsical creations served as the props for the very first Village Halloween Parade, an event that has since grown into an annual, nationally-known event. Today, his characters from the early days of the parade adorn his eclectic live/work studio in Westbeth, where he still lives and continues to make puppets and masks for his company the Mettawee River Theatre. Ralph recently invited 6sqft into his space, where we got up close and personal with the puppets and were able to see how the magic happens.
Photo Credit: Fine Art America
Westbeth Artists Housing at 55 Bethune Street in the West Village opened in 1970 to provide affordable live/work spaces for artists. A young Richard Meier took the project on as one of his first commissions, transforming the former home of Bell Laboratories into 384 units open to artists of all disciplines. Today, Westbeth remains home to many original residents, as well as others who arrived between 1970 and 2007 when the community closed its waitlist. In the process, the complex has evolved from a freewheeling haven for hippie artists to a somewhat calmer complex where the average age of residents is now well over 60. CityRealty.com talked to the George Cominskie, the President of the Westbeth Artist Residents Council, about the community’s history, the decision to close the waitlist for units, and the future of artist housing in New York City.
Our ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of 6sqft’s friends, family and fellow New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to artist Stephen Hall’s home and studio in Greenwich Village. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
Since being transformed into homes for artists in the 1970s, Westbeth Artists’ Housing has hosted some of New York City’s most brilliant creatives. And long-time resident and painter Stephen Hall most certainly falls into that set, helping to fill the residence’s walls with thought-provoking ideas for the last 17 years.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Stephen came to New York back in 1978 and began exhibiting his work in the East Village in the early ’80s. Today, his colorful pop-surrealist masterpieces can be found in collections all across the globe, with his paintings now commanding between $5,000-$20,000 a piece. He’s also dreamt up art for major motion pictures, music videos and magazines.
Curious to see the madness and magic behind his Stephen’s off-kilter works—which he describes as “paintings [that] confront us with complex conundrums for which each of many possible solutions may very well tell us as much about ourselves as about the subject at hand”—6sqft recently paid a visit to his duplex loft, a family home that mixes mid-century modern design with pops of color and familiar but fantastical forms.
In a city where hundreds of interesting happenings occur each week, it can be hard to pick and choose your way to a fulfilling life. Art Nerd‘s philosophy is a combination of observation, participation, education and of course a dance party to create the ultimate well-rounded week. Jump ahead for ArtNerd founder Lori Zimmer’s top picks for 6sqft readers, beginning this evening.
This week, I recommend taking a magical vintage-inspired boat ride set to romantic music, or experiencing old New York with an exhibition at the historic Westbeth Artists Housing’s gallery. You can also gawk at the ill-fated Edie Sedgwick’s beauty as Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests take over Times Square, commemorate the life of urban activist—and Robert Moses nemesis—Jane Jacobs with over 200 free walking tours, or celebrate the vigor of the city with Michael Sorgatz’s paintings. Leave your comfort zone and head to New Jersey–zip into Newark for the Gateway Project’s ribbon cutting and party, or spend the day taking in the 1 million square feet of art space at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City.