Merce Cunningham honored with Westbeth plaque

Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov speaking at the Merce Cunningham plaque dedication. Photos by Tequila Minsky

Dance and arts luminaries gathered at Westbeth Artists’ Housing at noon on Thurs., Sept. 20, to unveil a plaque in the memory of the great choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Among the dignitaries at the ceremony, at 55 Bethune St., were legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov; Joan Davidson, president emeritus of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; Carolyn Brown, a dancer and founding member of Merce Cunningham Dance Company; and the author and artist Richard Kostelanetz.

Cunningham, who died at age 90 in 2009, was an original tenant of the famed West Village affordable artists’ housing complex. His studio was located on Westbeth’s 11th floor for four decades.

V.I.P.’s at the plaque dedication, from left, Gus Solomons Jr., performer, mentor and writer; Joan Davidson, president emeritus of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; Ralph Lee, Westbeth resident, puppeteer and theater artist; Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic of The New York Times; Laura Kuhn, director of the John Cage Trust; and Mikhail Baryshnikov, artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

The enamel plaque that now graces the wall next to the Westbeth entranceway on Bethune St.

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Center’s Cultural Medallions program affixes enamel plaques to the exterior of buildings throughout New York City to commemorate an individual who has made a significant contribution to the city’s rich and diverse heritage.

An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the ceremony and the recognition given to a dance great.

Pat Jones, Westbeth’s interim executive director, standing near the new plaque to Merce Cunningham.

Pat Jones, chairperson and interim executive director of the Westbeth board of directors, told the crowd, “Westbeth is honored to be a part of the Merce Cunningham legacy. As one of New York’s only affordable live-work spaces for artists and arts nonprofits, we pride ourselves on providing space for creative individuals to flourish. The presence of the Cunningham Studio at Westbeth for over 40 years is both a testament to this vision and the scope of Merce Cunningham’s immense impact on New York and the dance world.”


— Lincoln Anderson

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