Saturday, January 26, 2008

If you have not heard, 200 artists were evicted from a building on Kent St. in Williamsburg this past week. They were told that the building was a fire hazard. According to a post at High Lo and In Between, they were apparently given less that 24 hours warning to get everything out. Here is the NY Times coverage of the event. A source quoted in the Times claims that the eviction occurred only weeks before there was to be a hearing, converting the building to rent-controlled apartments.

The landlord, Nachman Brach, was cited for not maintaining the sprinkler system, and having an illegal matzo ball factory (kitchens) in the basement. This was not the first time he was cited for building violations, according to The Brooklyn Paper.

One tenant's open letter to the city, describing the absurd and harrowing conditions surrounding the execution of the ousting, is posted here.

I have artist friends in Brooklyn who live under similar conditions, and worse. Sellout has posted some interesting questions about security and non-security in the lives of artists: why so many artists constantly "live on the edge".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe this insecurity has been the case since artists have been working independently - not for a church or leader - but for themselves. Think of Van Gogh (perhaps the extreme) and then of Alice Neel barely scraping by - both as a single mother and as an artist - for years. Though in the long run Alice Neel was able to make a decent living, Van Gogh never technically had independence - and there are no doubt countless other artists we do not know and will never know that have done the same and are doing the same now.

I do not believe that artists choose to live this way because of a sense of sacrifice for the big payoff, but they live this way because they are compelled to create and they will take this path of insecurity to give themselves the space and time to meet their creative needs.

Today when I was gallery sitting at the local non-profit art center, an Irish artist - perhaps in his fifties - came in to look at art and he commented on the lack of cheap studio space available in America. I mentioned that I work out of a spare room in my house, which means our family has no storage space and there are piles of stuff all over the rest of the house. But, as long as I am working, I don't care if I work on the kitchen table.

He agreed that it was good to constantly work, but at what sacrifice to your creativity to have to work in the place where you cook.

Food for thought.

If this whole stay-at-home-mom-artist thing doesn't work out, you may see me in Paducah (with children in tow, of course).

7:12 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Joanne Mattera has published a great essay on her precarious relationship to art:

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Joanne Mattera blog is excellent. It IS the other person in the marriage. I knew my husband was willing to live with my symbiotic pal "art" when he put up with my drawing board and supplies in the corner of the dining room floor for the first 5 years of our marriage...and he didn't even ask me to move it when folks came was just part of our lives. (Not that he does not get jealous of "art" occasionally, but at least he doesn't expect "art" to help out with the bills).

8:51 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I know.... I emailed it to my hubby asap. He and I are still working out the logistics of all of this. Living with another person (which is like holding a mirror up to yourself because you begin to see yourself more clearly) makes me feel like my behavior towards art borders on the addictive.

When I made the "payoff" comment at imasellout, I was speaking specifically of getting one's self into debt for your work/career. Going into debt is a stupid thing to do, but I rationalize that when eventually a painting does sell, it pays for the investments I made in good faith a few months earlier. Investment in yourself.

I confess that am still struggling with what it means to be a full-time practicing artist, i.e., what, if anything, should change from when I was teaching & making (beyond just the extra hours in the studio).

12:39 PM  

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