Excerpt from
The Unofficial Girls Guide to New York

Salmagundi Club
47 5th Avenue
New York, New York

The Salmagundi Club library, where Hannah reads her work. When it’s not hosting readings, the library is a rich source of art information open to club members and the public.

Hannah gets a lift when she runs into her old Oberlin writing
teacher, Professor Powell Goldman, at the launch party for Tally
Schifrin’s memoir at the Jane Hotel (see page 195).
“Tally’s a shitty writer and you’re a good writer,” he assures her,
and he invites her to read her work at one of the weekly readings
he organizes at the Salmagundi Art Club in Greenwich Village
(season 1, episode 9; “Leave Me Alone”).

The Salmagundi Club has its origins in a series of informal
gatherings of art students at the New York studio of sculptor Jonathan
Scott Hartley in late 1871. They would critique one another’s
work, often before a dinner, and began organizing joint exhibitions,
eventually on a national scale. They took the name Salmagundi
Sketch Club, adapted from the Salmagundi Papers, a literary magazine
published in the early nineteenth century. (Salmagundi is an
archaic culinary term dating to seventeenth-century England that
refers to a salad or stew of many ingredients.)

Founded in 1871, the Salmagundi Club quickly became perhaps
the leading artistic association in the United States, with some of
the nation’s most prominent artists as members. In 1917, the club
found its permanent home on Fifth Avenue, and it has been a focal
point of the City’s arts and literary scene ever since, with lectures,
exhibitions, art classes, concerts, and, of course, readings, almost
all open to the public at no charge.
Art exhibits in the Salmagundi galleries focus on “traditional,
representational art,” according to Tim Newton, the Salmagundi
Club’s chairman. “Art that needs no explanation; things of beauty
mthat you can look at and enjoy without having to have someone
explain it to you. We’re an oasis in a contemporary, modernistic
art world.”

Though the audience at Hannah’s reading was an older crowd,
that’s not typical, says Newton. “We have a vibrant group of artists
in the club in their twenties and thirties.” And there’s nothing
stodgy about the club’s programming either. One popular event
is an all-night “draw-a-thon” from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., featuring a live
model, artists of all ages, and pizza at midnight.

Artists and art lovers can join the club for a price (members
enjoy certain house privileges such as the private dining room).
Salmagundi members have included such art luminaries as
William Merritt Chase, N. C. Wyeth, and Louis Comfort Tiffany, of
Tiffany stained-glass fame. Sir Winston Churchill, Buckminster
Fuller, and the famed cartoonist Al Hirschfeld are among those to
have been honorary members. Current members hail from as far
away as London, Amsterdam, and Lisbon.

For an aspiring writer such as Hannah, reading at the Salmagundi
Club can be a heady experience. But rather than the piece
Professor Goldman suggested she read, she chooses another and
bombs. No one said the writer’s life was easy.

Copyright Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin: The Unofficial Girls Guide to New York: Inside the Cafes, Clubs and Neighborhoods of HBO'S Girls:
(SmartPop, 2013)

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