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.
LABA’s NYC home is the 14th Street Y in the heart of the East Village. 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 2023: TABOO
Clean. Dirty. Sacred. Profane. Okay. Not okay. We moderns like to think we are better than this. That we see beyond these moral categories and inhabit a muddied middle ground, an infinite gray area, in which life, people, things, are complicated. But the reality is we are no less a stranger to the concept of taboo than our ancient ancestors, whose understanding of life took shape through an articulation of boundaries. We are, always and forever, people who do and people who don’t.
From the moment Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, there has never been, and never will be, human psychology or collective existence without taboos. We need them to know what to say yes to and no to. And, equally important, we need them to have something to transgress. Taboos are a central component of the Jewish psyche and the artist’s psyche. These boundaries and borders illuminate truths, foment desire, and articulate fear and shame. They are the bridges between the subconscious and conscious, which make them some of the sharpest tools we have in our meaning-making toolkits.
Next year at LABA we will dive into the mysteries and power of TABOO in the ancient Jewish canon, unpacking and debating this human impulse and tapping into the ways in which it can fuel our creativity. 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
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 2023, 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 2023 at the 14Y.
- Check in periodically with the LABA Director 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 TABOO. 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 a 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 LABA Director, Global LABA Director, and a panel of artists and faculty will then review all eligible applications. Finalists will be contacted by the second week of November for interviews.