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National Register of Historic Places Program

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Property Name USCO Church, The
Reference Number 16000225
State NY
County Rockland
Town Garnerville
Street Address 21 Church St.
Multiple Property Submission Name N/A
Status Listed 5/3/2016
Areas of Significance ART, SOCIAL HISTORY
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The USCO Church in Garnerville, New York, is significant for its association with the Company of US or US Company (USCO), a group of like-minded artists which formed a collective and communal work and living environment in this former nineteenth-century religious edifice in Rockland County during the mid to later 1960s. USCO's significance, in the cultural and artistic context of the 1960s, was as pioneers and innovators in the production of what art historian Michel Oren termed "immersive multimedia events." The group's multimedia installations, developed, constructed and sometimes exhibited at the church, were featured at exhibition venues in New York City and San Francisco, and additionally on a variety of college campuses nation-wide. Of two of their installations from the mid-1960s Jonas Mekas, the noted filmmaker and artist, wrote "There are moments, at the Dom, and at the Riverside Museum, when I feel I am witnessing the beginnings of new religions, [in which] the symbolism of lights and colors are being discovered and explored" A concise synopsis of the group's intermedia endeavors was provided by Oren: In the 1964-66 period of its most intense activity, the group projected slide and film collages, produced paintings that flashed and kinetic sculptures whose parts turned and scintillated or thrust up jets of water "all in an attempt to open audiences to nonlinear and even mystical experience" While the group's collective efforts received some critical acclaim at the time, it is only in more recent times, with the benefit of time and critical perspective, that the nature and depth of their contributions to American art and culture in the 1960s is being more fully comprehended. In 2015 the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota opened a major show, "Hippie Modernism" The Struggle Toward Utopia, which includes four major USCO works, and the group's work is also being featured in a major exhibition at Seton Hall University Gallery in Orange, New Jersey; additionally, a large cache of USCO archival material was recently acquired by Stanford University, further evidence of contemporary academic interest in their activities and influence. Within the larger context of the period, USCO represents one aspect of the counterculture of the 1960s, in which artists, musicians, and writers used their respective mediums to express artistic critiques of existing society and/or used new means of expression to expand consciousness, alter perception, and suggest alternative realities in the interest of fomenting major social change. The USCO Church in Garnerville is being nominated for listing on the NRHP in the areas of Art and Social History, with a narrow period of significance defined as 1964- ca. 1968, which is reflective of the vital years of USCO occupancy. It is being nominated at the national significance level, given the broad influence of the endeavors undertaken there and their impact on period art and culture. The nominated building was central to this group's work during this period, it serving at once as both studio and domestic space for USCO contributors. Significance is not being claimed for this building's earlier history as a religious edifice, as it no longer retains sufficient integrity to portray this function. Instead, it more accurately portrays the period of USCO occupancy in the mid to later 1960s.

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Properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places under four criteria: A, B, C, and D. For information on what these criterion are and how they are applied, please see our Bulletin on How to Apply the National Register Criteria