I recently read an article by Noreen Malone in New York Magazine entitled “The Kids Are Sort of Alright” in which the writer delved into what it means to be a part of the aughties generation (Generations X and Y). This definition described a group of freshly-out-of-college-or-current-college kids who are confused and still attempting to define who they are creatively . They are practically voiceless and living in the shadow of their Baby Boomer parents, who created this world of art and protest, a world where one rebelled through creative means because they absolutely had to. The Baby Boomers told their kids they could grow up to be whatever they wanted and follow their dreams, something that isn’t flying now that the kids have grown up and entered an America in a recession. This reflection of myself and my fellow X-ies came to mind as I was reading Elizabeth Currid’s piece describing The NYC art scene in The Warhol Economy. Currid is attempting to paint a picture of NYC’s Cultural Economy, which opposes material economics in that it thriveswhen there is little economic prosperity.
As a current student at The New School, I couldn’t help but read Currid’s reports on NYC’s history and feel even more, well, scared, especially after reading Noreen Malone’s piece. Of course NYC is still the best place (in my opinion) for artists of any sort, but now, it’s just harder to make art for the sake of art, fashion included. Artists can barely live because tehy learn a craft that only makes bank if they’re in the limelight. Malone conjured a portrait of artists in my generation that are experiencing the aftermath of Currid’s retellings. It is still true that cultural capital for artists sometimes comes in the form of going out to parties and meeting the right people, but it’s not the same as Warhol’s time. Manhattan is barely even a borough for artists anymore, now it’s Brooklyn and, dare I say it, where I grew up, Queens, which is all well and good, but it shows that times have changed.
So the solution, Currid suggests, is public policy and tax incentives. Yes! Agreed! Back upstate in Buffalo, where my family lives, is a huge apartment complex full of large, modern apartments with all the latest fixings. It is called Artspace. Basically, it’s low-rent apartments for working artists, complete with in-house gallery space, gyms and laundry. Every apartment was designed with ample amounts of sunlight for visual artists who paint or illustrate and enough sound-blocked walls for musicians. I have friends whose families live there, and it’s an amazing space for creative people. Artwork lines the walls of ever floor with every corner and elevator housing some sort of installation piece. Now, I’m wondering if this sort of idea would fly or die in NYC considering the IMMENSE real estate prices and limited space in conjunction with thousands upon thousands of artists. Would the art world be effected positively by artists who are able to pay rent when Currid shows us that NYC art needs economic downturn? What do you guys think?