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NEA Grant Supports Preservation of NYU Fales Library’s Multimedia Downtown Collection

October 30, 2007
N-139, 2007-08

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded a grant to the New York University Division of Libraries to help preserve, catalog, and make accessible rare dance and performance related audio, video, and film elements from the Fales Library’s Downtown Collection. The media to be preserved are from The Judson Memorial Church Archive and the papers of artists John Watts and Laura Foreman. They document some of the developments in avant-garde New York dance and performance from the 1960s and 1970s, and offer a rare glimpse into this ephemeral world.

Papers include rare audio from Carolee Schneeman’s 1964 Meat Joy, and three signature Watts and Foreman collaborations: Signals (1970), Glass and Shadows (1971), and Heirlooms (1977).

The preservation projects focus on:

  • The Judson Memorial Archive which contains 11 unique audio elements that represent performances at the Judson Gallery, and from the Judson Dance Theatre from 1964-68. Artists documented include: Ralph Ortiz, Lil Picard, Jean Toche, and Judson composer-in-residence Philip Corner.
  • The John Watts and Laura Foreman Papers which contain audio, film, and video material from their jointly formed Composers and Choreographers Theatre (CCT). Three important collaborations are being preserved.

Brent W. Phillips, media specialist and processing archivist at NYU’s Fales Library, says, “Our research shows that all of these audio-visual elements are unique and do not reside in other repositories. These media elements are important in their documentation of the various developments in the New York dance and performance scenes of their particular era.” Phillips, a former soloist dancer with The Joffrey Ballet from 1985-1994, adds, “When I ‘retired’ from dancing, my main impetus in pursuing a career in media preservation was to be able to help safeguard our dance heritage. So working with this current NEA grant, so vibrantly rich in dance performance documentation, is particularly satisfying to me.”

The Downtown Collection, housed in the Fales Library at NYU, began in 1993 and documents the downtown arts scene that evolved in SoHo and the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1970s through the early 1990s. The movement, taken as a whole, was very diverse, and its output includes literature, music, theater, performance, film, activism, dance, photography, video, and original art.

Type: Press Release

From the Laura Foreman Papers; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

From the Laura Foreman Papers; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

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