Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Artists Flee NYC: Less Funding But the Same High Rents
Monday, November 15, 2010 - 11:51 AM
Here's one of those depressing articles you've probably seen variations of over the years -- New York City is expensive; artists can't afford to live here -- and may be tempted to roll your eyes at. But this Crain's piece is worth reading because it speaks to the current economic climate:
...a survey of 1,000 artists conducted in 2009 by the New York Foundation for the Arts found that more than 43% expected their annual income to drop by 26% to 50% over the next six months, and 11% believed they would have to leave New York within six months. Even more troubling, cultural boosters say, is that for the first time, artists fresh out of art schools around the country are choosing to live in nascent artist communities in regional cities like Detroit and Cleveland—which are dangling incentives to attract this group—and bypassing New York altogether.
Remember how artists and art-lovers were sounding giddy, back in the early days of the recession, at the prospect that the city would revert to the 1970s -- not so much the grungy, falling-apart aspect as the free-form artistic carnival it (supposedly) was? Hardly.
Many had hoped the recession would bring down rents, making it easier for them to stay. Instead, rents have barely dropped, and the part-time jobs they depend on for survival have become harder to find. Without a strong arts community, New York risks losing its standing as a creative center, which could have a negative impact on numerous industries that depend on talented employees.
I'd really like to see a survey of artists who've left NYC -- was it worth it? One artist friend who still lives here but has spent much of the last few years outside, doing residencies, says he told a group of artists in Portland "they are not missing anything by living out there and not moving to NYC."
"You can live much more affordably elsewhere," he wrote, "and plan two or three strategic one or even two week trips per year to NYC with your savings."
As the Crain's article suggests, that fatigue is catching on.
“There was a romanticism about being an artist in New York that was handed down in stories, but no artist I know is living that kind of life here,” [painter Katya] Tepper says. “In other cities where space is affordable, artists are now living the kind of life we dreamed about in New York.”