Monday, June 19, 2006

NYC Losing Arts

A great email was sent out by Galapagos Arts Space today. In it they refer to ten performing arts spaces going out of business in New York, and how this is just the beginnings of a loss of emerging arts, and artists, from NYC.

As I've written elsewhere, this trend is also hitting the media arts, and the recent closing of AIVF can, in part, be seen as indicative of this change. Is the same trend mentioned by Galapagos starting to be seen in NYC's media landscape? We're probably in better shape due to the continued imnportance of NYC as a film town, even for Hollywood production. But, I would argue that what Robert of Galapagos mentions below could easily be seen occuring in the film world next. Perhaps filmmakers and media artists that call NYC home should start addressing this possibility now:

The original article is quoted almost entirely here, and is worth reading:

"The canaries in New York City’s real estate gold mine – the emerging arts – are no longer talking about the next show they hope to land, they’re talking about the next city they think they can land in once their current lease runs out. (...) Within the next few months, ten off-Broadway theaters will permanently close . The price of real estate has risen so far that, from a cultural point of view, in three to five years we’ll be experiencing a fundamentally different idea of what it means to live in New York City and be a New Yorker. City Hall must find ways to incentivize rebuilding the emerging arts infrastructure that’s evaporating in our white-hot real estate market, or it won’t be built.


In a New York too expensive to incubate young artists many of these best young minds will fly right past our exploding real-estate market and rezoned artistic neighborhoods to cultivate and grow cultural and economic opportunities in other, less expensive cities. It’s important to remember that these young artists have no loyalty to New York; they’re from places like Des Moines after all. Many in New York City believe that the vital underground of emerging artists’ environments is here to stay ‘just because’. This is wrong. New York doesn’t have to be the cultural capital of the emerging arts, or of the financial or the media industries for that matter, New York needs to continue to earn its place and it can easily price itself out of that role. London is only one of many capable cities who are very busy trying to beat us at our best industries.

The Future:

As more and more cities begin to understand the advantage they can place in their populations by proactively attracting the emerging arts and either establishing or buttressing their own creative economies, the bidding for our young cultural participants will begin. Smart cities will soon make New York based artists offers they’d be foolish to refuse, and cities like (gasp!) Philadelphia, Berlin, Pittsburg or London will get the most adventurous of them – the ones our meritocracy would obviously miss the most – if we can’t find effective ways to continue pooling them here, in our city."

What we need to do:

The cost of real estate is crushing the emerging arts. We’re about to see a huge exodus of emerging artists leaving new York for other, less expensive cities. To even think about retaining them we have to incentivize the creation of opportunity at the emergent level. And we have to create lots of it.


If emerging artists and the best young cultural thinkers can’t see themselves possibly affording to live here then we’d better find ways to make them think they can’t possibly afford to live anywhere else.

In the end only one-thing matters: good artists and the best young cultural thinkers follow ideas, and ideas flourish when and where there is opportunity to realize them. .

No one can roll back the cost of real estate or prevent small performance spaces from becoming chic little clothing stores, but to create so much opportunity in this real estate climate that we remain an effective cultural capital and not simply a wonderful museum city where art isn’t made, there are a number of questions that must be asked.

What can our City government do?
What can the largest cultural institutions do?
What can the foundation and funding community do?
What can the business community do?
What can our next Governor do?
What can you, the audience, do?

Robert Elmes
Director, Galapagos Art Space"

1 comment:

Pnut Films said...

how is this happening? have people become so docile that they can't even see the harm this is doing.

this is very sad for our culture. a culture doesn't thrive unless it supports its artists. creativity is so important, yet our cultural leaders treat it like garbage. what a shame.

i sure hope someone is making a documentary about this. i'd love to make one if i had the proper funding.