Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where will all the artists go? Or why Manhattan is in danger of becoming less fascinating . . .

Ripples, 2011, Dorothy Simpson Krause
I went to a fascinating event last weekend (yes, I'm blogging but I still ruminate for several days over what I might write like an old-fashioned writer): Two young musicians guitarist Ben Kaplan and composer Peter Flint played together for free in a little exhibition space called 571 Projects Kaplan played guitar and synthesizer and Flint played accordion also electronically altered. They played the kind of Reichian/Glassian Bang-on-a-Can new music that I love. So about 20 of us sat there sweating and rocking to the music, while glancing around at these mixed media pieces based on the painter's time spent in the Everglades. But what was particular poignant was to learn that this space, which had been there for 3 years, if I recall correctly, was due to close at the end of the summer. Why? Because the building, which sits off the corner from the Chelsea Piers, that is, in prime Manhattan real estate land thanks to all the artists' galleries, was being demolished to make way for high-end condos. Big surprise, right? It's what always happens. Except there are those of us who remember what it was like when New York was a place where young artists—dancers, writers, painters, theater performers, musicians—were able to move and live, working at peripheral jobs while still pursuing their metier. This has all become less and less possible. As the terrific raconteur Fan Lebowitz puts it in her Martin Scorsese documentary, Public Speaking, to paraphrase: If a city is nothing but rich people, it's not a very fascinating place. She uses the word fascinating as the camera pans over  the seedy, but somehow authentic, Times Square (with its FASCINATION parlor, which she mourns has become a cleaned-up tourist spot one is ashamed to be seen passing through. I'll save my trip to Brooklyn for a future post.

1 comment:

  1. Living as I do in the midst of the ongoing destruction of the Upper West Side and as a longtime resident of Brooklyn and Manhattan I am often (constantly) saddened by the myriad losses we are experiencing. I remember reading an account of a visitor walking with a friend who was a native New Yorker across Eighth Street in the Village. She remembered mostly being told, "This amazing bookstore used to be here," "This theater that showed only art films used to be here....," etc. That guide could have been me. You mentioned Philip Glass. I recall a recent interview with him when he turned 75. A longtime resident of the East Village, he remarks that he certainly couldn't live and work in Manhattan today. (The whole interview is here... A good question, "Where will all the artists go?"
    The cost of living is a nightmare. Places to live in the other boroughs, too, are going... gone.