Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

NYC No Place for Working Studio Artists

without comments

I found this response / comment to the 1717 Troutman resident vacate entry so insightful that I wanted to pull it out of the comments area and post it as an entry.

Shawn Says:

This is a difficult situation; I am an artist, live in the area and am familiar with the problem. I understand the “logic� of eviction from an unsafe building; no one wants to be responsible for a building full of people going up in flames with no fire escapes or sprinklers.

But, this is not a problem in any other city I have ever been in, there are warehouses full of artists in almost every other major city in this country and the cities are, on the whole, happy to have them there. It is understood that conditions may be a little sub-standard, but “rent at your own risk� seems to be the more common city stance.

Not in New York. In New York, I think, there is bitterness about rent and a vicious contempt between the “haves� and the “have-nots�. That is, those who own property (or rent significantly below the market rate) and those who are slaves to the financial-commercial monster of this city to be able to afford the absurd market rate rents. This has created (i) dumb and arrogant city agencies intent on over-managing the housing market and (ii) rapacious, unscrupulous landlords who are nonetheless feckless property owners. Anyone perceived to be “getting away with� renting on the cheap are not tolerated by either the city agencies or the landlords.
The real losers in this battle are the artists.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO awareness of the problem facing working artists in this city by the city itself or its agencies. (Disclaimer: my “day job� is at one of these city agencies). OK, landlords are scummy and will always be scummy, I accept that, but the stance of the city here, which should be protecting artists instead of always working against them is ridiculous. Many city officials who pride themselves on being representatives of a “cultural capital� still advocate policies that would turn the whole city into a luxury condo wasteland, populated by hordes of insipid, bland, Sims-like financial sector employees.

When one does find awareness of “artists� by the city, they are either expendable gentrifiers or (sorry if I offend anyone here) art-related professionals, like web designers, marketing and advertising people, company (not freelance) graphic designers, etc. These people are not studio artists. Studio artists need work space. It would also be nice to have a place to live.

Live-work space combos are not just some screw-off kids trying to get away without paying residential rents, live-work spaces are a sad necessity for most artists here, who on the whole would much rather have separate studios and apartments and who even when they are selling their work are in a constant struggle for rent, not to mention health care, basic living expenses and so on.

The problem is that no one sees the problem of artists. If the city would start viewing artists as small manufacturers (which they most certainly are), then the city could start to offer benefits to artists and to those who provide the artists with stable, affordable work space. There are a myriad of industrial benefits offered by various city agencies of which currently most artists enjoy none.

I sympathize with the unfortunate former tenants of 1717 Troutman. But for some time now, droves of artists have been leaving the myth of a New York bohemia behind and moving to other cities where they are wanted (Berlin for example) and where they can afford to live and sell their work. The writing is on the walls. In less than 10 years, if things don’t change, New York will not be the “world cultural capital� for contemporary studio-based art that it is so often advertised as in brochures for luxury condos and in incentive packages for mega-financial institutions.

Written by ricardo

November 20th, 2007 at 5:21 pm