Most art is made in a location that is very different and often far removed from the location in which it is displayed and/or purchased. In this time, it is highly unlikely that any new or emerging professional artist will make and sell art in the same place. This is particularly evident in a place like New York city where starving artists and wealthy patrons co-exist side by side.
From the New York Times:
Last week The Guardian published an essay by the singer-songwriter David Byrne, which received a fair amount of attention online, arriving under the headline “If the 1% Stifles New York’s Creative Talent, I’m Out of Here.”
What followed was considerably more nuanced than the kind of diatribe, now familiar, often delivered by artists and others who came of age in the city during the 1970s and yearn for the seductions of a vanished danger. In this view, the start of the last quarter of the 20th century left New York populated entirely by addicts and hustlers, painters and drug pushers, and the city was a better, more enlivening place for the anxieties it bred.
“I don’t romanticize the bad old days,” Mr. Byrne said in his piece. “I have no illusions that there was a connection between that city on its knees and a flourishing of creativity.” What he laments instead is that our cultural capital now languishes completely in the hands of a brash upper class.
On one level it seems difficult to argue with him. Current market realities make it inconceivable that anyone could arrive today in New York at 23 with a knapsack and a handful of Luna bars and become David Byrne.
We also famously live in an era of diminishing support for the arts. According to a report released last month, government arts financing reached a record low in 2011 at the same time the proportion of American households giving money to the arts dwindled to 8.6 percent. But perhaps the problem is one of paradox, not exclusion, which is to say that while New York has become an increasingly inhospitable place to incubate a career as an artist, it has become an ever easier place to experience and consume the arts. The evolution of Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural district is emblematic of this new democracy. Last week saw the official opening of BRIC House, a 66,000-square-foot building with a gallery space and another space for film screenings, readings, lectures and so on, all with no admission charges.
BRIC House, which is under the direction of Leslie Greisbach Schultz and occupies an old vaudeville theater into which the city has poured $41 million, also contains a flexible performance space where it will be possible to see dance and music from emerging and established artists largely for under $20. The ticket price of plays, offered as works in progress, is $10.
The upper floors are host to something called Urban Glass, a monument to the art of glass blowing. “There are people in this city who get as excited about glass blowing as I get about Junior’s,” the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, marveled to me.
Both BRIC, which offers classes in digital photography and video production for nothing or next to nothing, and the nearby Mark Morris Dance Center involve residents of Brooklyn public housing in free dance instruction. At Mark Morris it costs less to enroll a 3-year-old in a dance class with a teacher who is studying for a doctorate in philosophy than it does to enroll a child in Super Soccer Stars.
Further challenging claims about the end of culture in the city is that the number of public art exhibits grew under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s tenure. Additionally, through his private philanthropic efforts, Mr. Bloomberg has donated more than $230 million since 2002 to arts and social service organizations across the city. Over the summer, his foundation announced an additional contribution of $15 million to a handful of cultural institutions to help them enhance visitors’ experiences through mobile technology.
At BRIC — “the epicenter of the center of the artistic universe,” Mr. Markowitz calls it — as with other Brooklyn cultural institutions, a good deal of the progress has come about with the help of a quiet philanthropic community that exists far from the world of hedge-fund vanity. A handful of wealthy residents support the borough’s institutions, their names not the kind to appear in Women’s Wear Daily.
Read the entire article here.