"If you can make it hear, you can make it anywhere" - Frank Sinatra
High rents, freezing winters, sweltering hot summers, $6 boxes of cheerios, all truths about New York City. Given these facts, how come New York City is home to largest concentration of artists, a career that consistantly ranks at the bottom of worst paying jobs? I have reached out to a few of my good friends who happen to be fellow artists living in NYC to get there take on this topic.
Location is a strange concept in contemporary society. You can paint from anywhere and share your work globally in an instant — mid-stroke, I can snap a photo and post it to Twitter... the time and distance between canvas and eyeball has evaporated. So why live in NYC? Why pay triple the rent of another city? It's a great question... for me, NYC is more about the energy... a feeling in my core. I discussed this phenomenon with a famous author who, in a moment of great duress, went to Central Park in the middle of the night and just placed his hand on a big rock, feeling the Islands energy. I believe there is something to this... living in NYC as an artist was about being close to galleries, collectors, dealers and those who write for Page Six. Today, proximity is a choice thanks to social media and the proliferation of technology. Living in Manhattan, for me, is more Lost than Wall Street.
For me personally I grew up in the suburbs of the city, so have always felt at home here. The most important for me is to feel comfortable where I am when I'm painting. In NY I like to be locked away all day - and then no matter what time you decide to stop working - you can go outside and there's tons going on. Painting is such a lonely thing in certain ways that it's nice to have all of the hustle around you. You know everyone is working as hard or harder than you and it makes you keep your game up. Plus, there are tons of opportunity to put your art up in varying degrees. Be it a coffee shop, a gallery, people's apartments. There are so many people in such a small space that by default more people will see what you're doing. I think I would go stir crazy in a smaller city, and LA doesn't do it for me. That's my take anyways.
As an artist, I've hustled, begged, borrowed and stolen my way across this this great nation from the Southwest to the Big Apple because it is a Mecca. All of the beautiful, powerful and talented people of the world attempt to at least pass through the City - therefore it is a limitless source of inspiration for me, as my work is about the connections between people, places and time. It is a metropolis of Dreams and Money - if you are willing to pay the price, you can make anything happen... For me that is the epitome of what being a true artist, in any genre, is all about. How far are you willing to go to create magic amidst the mundane? New York City is a monument to that struggle, and the museums, galleries and skyscrapers are filled with objects that are the embodiment of that magical connection we can all share as human beings, no matter who or where we are.
NYC is always changing and there's just a constant flow of stimuli, which I think charges my creative batteries. And because it's a place that people flock to from around the world, the diversity you get to experience here is pretty tremendous. So many museums and galleries and pop-up shows and people making art and selling art in the street... There is a lot of opportunity, inside and outdoors, and odds are you're going to meet some interesting and inspiring people along the way.
The reason I came to New York and the reason why I have stayed are nearly identical. What brought me here was romantic love, and what has kept me here is my love for this city. For me as an artist, New York is the perfect playground. I am constantly inspired and challenged by everything it has to offer, and the amazing people it attracts. The realms of exploration are endless, much like what attracts me to painting. The world is my stage, and New York is the worlds stage.
Since these artists were kind enough to take time away from their canvases to answer this question for me, I figured it is only fair to give my take on this topic. If you mix a bunch of colors together, you get the color mud. However, if you mix all those colors together in New York City, each color illuminates individually and collectively. The colors being an obvious metaphor for the eclectic group of people that call NYC home. The result of living in such a multi-cultural environment offers those who seek inspiration, an infinite treasure of sources. As I mention in previous blog posts, artists experience the world differently. We journey through this world with heightened sensitivity to our environment. It is both a gift and a curse. We struggle & thrive with a sense of uniqueness. In New York City, the environmental stimuli is a catalyst in cultivating the artist's creative spirit. I happen to be writing this blog entry on my way back home after a relaxing vacation in North Carolina. As the pilot announces our initial decent into Laguardia Airport, I raise my shade and look out at the city I call home. The view should just be reason enough.
Living in New York City is a challenge with tremendous upside. However, it is that challenge, also known as "the hustle," that nurtures the toughness that is woven into the fiber of every New Yorker. Will New York always be a mecca for artists? I certainly hope so.
I am now on my 6th day thinking about this blog entry and as I walk down Kent Avenue in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I look at how things are changing. The artistic "temples" of Williamsburg are being torn down and replaced with luxury high rise buildings. In full closure, I live in one of these high rise buildings so I will accept the deserving label of a hypocrite.
How does this gentrification effect us artists? Cheap rents, large loft spaces, and the polarizing experience of going from the glamour of the upscale areas to the indomitable essence of the Lower East Side, is what inspires many of us artists. When building full of art studios is knocked down to make room for a luxury high rise, you are leveling the playing field and a level playing field is not a comfortable and inviting place for artists. Artists have already started moving to areas like Bushwick and Bed Stuy. Proof that no matter what, artists will always search for and find new places to migrate to. Please, don't let it be Long Island.