LABA Application

LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Art and Culture

LABA is a non-religious house of study whose goal is to function as an international incubator for creativity and to push the boundaries of what Jewish art can be, and what Jewish texts can teach. Through thoughtful study, we engage with the stories of the Bible and classical Rabbinic texts as if they were new. We also fold in secular literature, music and art to help us better see the timeless and radical elements of these sacred texts.

Every year, LABA selects a group of ten fellows for a year-long study of classical Jewish texts centered around a chosen theme. Through the LABA fellowship, fellows are provided an open and creative setting for the thoughtful study of Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual tradition. These creative explorations inform their art and ideas and are presented through live LABA events and online in the LABA Journal.

Founded at the 14th Street Y, which is now home to LABA NY, one of the many hubs as LABA as grown (LABA Bay, Buenos Aires, Berlin and the newest at Barcelona). Its setting provides fellows the opportunity to engage deeply with the 14Y community, the surrounding neighborhoods, and to show their work to the New York theater and art worlds through installations, gallery shows, workshops, performances, presentations, and panel discussions presented throughout the 14Y and in its convertible Black Box Theater.

About the LABA theme for 2024: NIGHT 

What only comes out at NIGHT. 

NIGHT, in the Jewish imagination, is both a matter of time and a state of mind.

Our days begin at night, the arrival of three stars is our first sign of tomorrow. Our calendar is lunar, our months and years obsessively coordinated with the waxing and waning of the moon. Our festivals are backlit by the orb at its fullest.
Night is more than a time marker, however. It is also a paradoxical psychological state, when urges are too messy, too irrational, and too wild for the day to emerge, whether through dreams or behaviors or habits or the thoughts that only voice themselves at three in the morning. Night is obscurity, but it is also clarity. Night is freedom, but it is also sometimes cruelty. Only in darkness can some truths be revealed. The cosmos began with night, and from night the very atoms humming our bodies arrived. We can never know ourselves fully, as a person or a people, without a deep understanding of night.

This year at LABA we will explore the theme of NIGHT in the ancient Jewish canon. We will look at how and why NIGHT anchors us, liberates us, terrifies us through a study of evocative stories from the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, Zohar and more. We will study how the separation of day and night marks the beginning of the world, the way dreams inform reality, what night does to the mind and soul, and epic, history-changing nights in Jewish cultural history.

We will also consider the role of NIGHT in the life of culture-makers, and the ways in which culture-makers are the “NIGHTS” of people—truth-tellers, tricksters, beauty-makers, and deep-sea subconscious divers.
Most importantly, we’ll have a great time talking, eating, drinking, learning, and laughing in the lush, fertile, free-flowing, romantic, super-serious, and endlessly playful environment of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.

We invite you to point your flashlight towards uncharted territories–places you might cherish, wish to destroy, or both– and propose new work inspired by what night brings up in you. All mediums accepted, and the strange and unconventional are always welcome.

About Our Fellows

We are seeking NYC-based artists and culture-makers from any creative field: fellows have included choreographers, performers, curators, visual artists, bakers, directors, composers, writers, film-makers, clowns, comedians and fashion designers. We do not limit our categories: we encourage everyone from puppeteers and chefs to architects and tight-rope walkers to apply.

No previous knowledge of Jewish texts is required for fellows, nor will previous knowledge of Jewish texts lessen one’s chances of becoming a fellow. What is required is a desire to study these texts in an intellectually rigorous, non-religious setting.

This LABA season runs January to December 2024, with summer months focused on developing your LABA project.  

Please note that this is a NYC-based fellowship.

During the season, fellows are required to:

  • Join us for ten study and engagement sessions at the 14Y, or around New York City. This is usually once a month on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.
  • Make at least one contribution to our online journal.
  • Present their work-in-process at one of our LABAlive events, which will take place in the fall of 2024 at the 14Y.
  • Check in periodically with the Director of LABA NY about their work. 

All applicants must apply to LABA with either a work-in-process or a concrete project idea connected to the theme of NIGHT. Our goal is to be informed and inspired by the study sessions, which, we have found, happens on a much deeper level when the fellows have a specific goal in mind.

LABA Fellows receive a $1200 study stipend, and an additional production stipend for their LABA project. In addition, artists receive creative and administrative support in various forms, such as fiscal sponsorship and fundraising strategies. Through the year of their fellowship, fellows have access to rehearsal space and workspace at the 14Y, including the theater.

Fellows also have the opportunity to work one-on-one and be mentored by LABA faculty.

Finally, LABA gives culture-makers a chance to create in an artistic community, where they will be able to engage in an ongoing conversation about the development of their work.

About Second Stage

Part of LABA’s ongoing goal is to function as a hub for the development of new Jewish culture. Thus artists may have the opportunity to further the work developed through LABA after the completion of their fellowship year, pending budget and approval. (We call this the “second stage.”)

Past work from LABA fellows has continued on to the New Museum, The Tate Modern, BAM Next Wave, Off-Broadway theaters, and the 14th Street Y. Past works have been presented as gallery shows, full-scale dance productions, operas and more. While we cannot guarantee all fellows will move into a second stage, the artistic and production teams will work with you closely throughout the year to determine what the appropriate next steps are for the artist and LABA/14th Street Y.

Applications are now closed.

The Director of LABA NY, the Global LABA Director, and a panel of artists and faculty will then review all eligible applications. Interviews with finalists will be in person on November 2–6.