Life in a new city

December 10, 2009

In the last two months I’ve been busy.  Busy figuring out where I am. Busy rewriting my artist statement, busy planning the next project, busy going to shows, busy going to dance classes, and busy paying the bills.  

At the bar I tend in Brooklyn, I meet all kinds of locals all the time.  All the artists and muscians that float in ask me how it’s going.  Tell me that it’s important to keep putting yourself out there all the time, that it’s easy to get wrapped up in just paying the rent in New York.

Last night I started reading Bob Ostertag’s new book, Creative Life (which is excellent).  He reflects on the 70’s in Manhattan, riding around on his bicycle, and with his other twenty-something friends making DIY work all the time, and loving it.  And, with a friend, paying 200 something dollars a month for their living and rehearsal space.  He writes, “We had no money, no grants, no institutional support, and little critical attention but we had the one crucial ingredient an insurgent cultural scene needs in order to flower: cheap rent.  Cheap rent, I learned, is far more important to fostering a vital art scene than grants, galleries, and so on.” hmmm.   How do I keep choosing to live in the most expensive cities in America?

There are several reasons.  Here in New York, the things that keep me going right now, as I still get my feet on the ground and pay a lot more than 200 dollars a month in rent, are all the great work I’ve seen, (a la Next Wave festival at BAM, Lepage, Monk, Forsythe, Wilson, as well lots of lesser known work in smaller venues), my now weekly studio practice at Chez Bushwick (where it costs only 5 dollars an hour to rent rehearsal space!), dance classes and workshops at Movement Research, and all the brainstorming new projects and possibilities with artist friends.

Change is good.  Even if it leaves me with very few connections and a long way to go.  Cost of living is high, but being immersed in a city with so much work happening simultaneously on so many different levels, is good.  

Ostertag may be right that cheap rent is integral to making art, but for now, I’m okay exchanging high cost for high access.

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