Place of the Month

Cornelia Street Café

 

In honor of their 40th anniversary this July 4th, we are so pleased to honor Cornelia Street Café as July's Place of the Month!
 
In May 1977, three artists stumbled across a tiny storefront in the heart of Greenwich Village and thought it the perfect place to open a café. For two months they scraped and sanded, plumbed and plastered, and did the intricate dance one does with the authorities who live beyond the Village, and on the weekend of July 4, 1977, perpetually 201 years behind the US, they opened the Cornelia Street Café.
 
For almost 40 years, the Cornelia Street Café, in addition to providing food for the body (not to mention drink), has attempted to provide food for the soul. From humble beginnings, the Café has produced perhaps the widest variety of performance in New York:  from science to stilt walking, from Latin jazz to Russian poetry, from Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues to Suzanne Vega, who sang her first songs in front of the cappuccino machine when the Café was still one room. Attorney-activist William Kunstler read the poetry of some of his famous clients (Dylan Thomas, for one) after the Café expanded into the side room; in the mid-80’s the Café went “clean for Gene," turning the basement into a viable performance space for Senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy to read his own poetry. This is where neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks read the first drafts of several of his autobiographies, where members of Monty Python & the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as comedians Amy Schumer, John Oliver, and Hannibal Buress have also performed.
 
The downstairs performance space, newly renamed "Cornelia Street Underground," continues to host more than 700 shows a year, including a Science Series curated by Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann; a philosophy series, curated by Joseph Biehl, President of the Gotham Philosophical Society; poetry and prose in more than a dozen languages; music in every conceivable genre from Jazz in all its forms to Classical, Avant-garde, Opera, Brazilian and Gypsy Music, and Southern Indian Carnatic Drumming; there is a freewheeling series featuring David Amram, who invented Jazz and Spoken Word with Jack Kerouac in the ‘50’s and was Leonard Bernstein’s first composer-in-residence at the NY Philharmonic in the ‘60s. Upstairs in the two dining rooms there is a new art opening every month, showcasing artists in different kinds of visual media. 
 
If you look around the neighborhood where the Café is located, one thing is very noticeable – the high cost of doing business in New York has claimed many local establishments.  Soaring rent is changing the character and landscape of the Greenwich Village community, and the Café is not immune: its rent now 77 times what it was when it opened back in the summer of 1977.  As a result, the Café’s management has sought and received not-for-profit fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas. As the Café's 40th anniversary approaches - July 2017 - friends hope to raise awareness that the Café is in need of help and support.