May 4, 2010

"New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling."

"But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."

Also, Newark... says Patti Smith.

48 comments:

E.M. Davis said...

Must not be much going on at U of W Law School today.

WV: Pectlick. Gay foreplay?

Kevin said...

That's because New York was a dump when Patti Smith moved to New York. No wonder things were cheap.

David said...

Patti Smith reveals self as another rich old fool.

Moose said...

"...find a new city to LIVE IN!"
- More Songs about Buildings and Food

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Hahahahaha.

Detroit?

Obviously Patti Smith has not been to Detroit any time recently.

Detroit is a dead city, killed by liberal Democrats. It lays mostly in ruins. It's entire government is entirely corrupt.

No person in their right mind would venture there.

ricpic said...

It's no longer the 19th or even mid-20th century. Who needs massive horror pit cities any longer?

GMay said...

I thought Motown was opening itself up to farm animals these days.

AJ Lynch said...

I think she is right about NYC. If you don't go to NYC to get rich and make a lot of money, you will find it hard to afford it.

tim maguire said...

Surprising that Smith, who has lived in New York for so many years, would make the common mistake of hearing New York City and thinking only Manhattan.

Yes, the high rents of Manhattan have largely destroyed the arts culture there, making the island inhospitable to anyone Obama wouldn't define as rich, but artists are doing just fine in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and across the river in Jersey City.

Nevertheless, good on her for not being tied to useless details of the past. If something doesn't work for you, don't cry that it worked for someone else at some other time, just go find what does work for you.

Balfegor said...

No person in their right mind would venture there.

It's precisely because it's dead (and cheap) that it's arguably the ideal place for an artists' colony of young artists to set up shop. The property may be worthless and the economy non-existent, but it's possible to survive there at much less expense than in NY, where the rent alone could buy a Detroit house. There's also an existing infrastructure of picturesque old buildings and roads and so on from back when the city was functional, which may appeal to some.

Paddy O. said...

I'm not sure this is true. I imagine New York is filled with the young and struggling. It always has been.

It may not, however, be a good place for the young and like-the-ideal-of-struggling-but-not-the-inconvenience-of-it-because-that-might-mean-not-having-an-iphone-and-having-to-work-a-menial-job-which-would-prevent-"artistic"-endeavors-at-coffee-shop-and-would-take-away-time-for-protesting-such-travesties-as-Arizona's-immigration-law-so-will-find-somewhere-a-person-can-"struggle"-on-their-own-terms-but-still-be-able-to-buy-chic-hats-and-Apple-products.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"There's also an existing infrastructure of picturesque old buildings and roads and so on from back when the city was functional, which may appeal to some."

No, there isn't. There is nothing picturesque in burned out shells of manufacturing buildings.

The city of Detroit is also setting about bulldozing all those buildings and tearing up the streets. Costs too much to keep them maintained.

You didn't even address the fact that the entire local government is corrupt.

Livability isn't just defined as "average rent." Yes, that's a big part of it, but Detroit is a city that has nothing to offer.

Until a political culture exists in Detroit that favors growth and job creation, and isn't riddled with bribe-takers and gangsters, the city will continue its much-deserved deterioration.

I think it's funny what the town has done to itself by electing corrupt Democrats as leaders.

A young artist would be a fool to go there.

Robert Cook said...

Patti Smith knows whereof she speaks. NYC was a dump in her heyday, as someone remarked, yet still a media and arts center of the nation, so young artists and musicians could move here, live cheaply, work sporadically (if at all), and still afford to make their art. Out of that came a vital arts scene the fading ripples of which are still felt throughout the world today.

The problem with her prescription for moving to other blighted cities that dot America today is that they are not media centers, so arts communities that might find berth there will not enjoy the same easy access to press coverage, which is also necessary to foment interest in that community, which leads to patrons, money, success, etc.

edutcher said...

Cleveland is in the same boat as Detroit. It would like to be the kind of place Ms. smith envisions, but it's dying for the same reasons as Detroit.

Paddy O. said...

Of course, there's always Los Angeles. Downtown is getting a lot more interesting, while the surrounding communities have long had interesting contributions being made.

We hide our very thriving artistic side beneath the veneer of Hollywood, so that the hipsters stay in Poughkeepsie.

Youngblood said...

Tim,

Before the housing crash, the buroughs were gentrifying rapidly. I was living in Bushwick at the time and, while rents were cheap along the border with Bed-Stuy, the same definitely wasn't true of the entire neighborhood.

Williamsburg is a pretty good example of what Bushwick will ultimately become -- a kind of Disneyland version of the traditional New York experience.

I'm too lazy to look up the references, but I think it was Columbia University that was doing a study on the impact of housing rates on the cultural life of the city. Basically, they came to the conclusion that a lot of young artists are bypassing NYC entirely and moving to places like Philadelphia or Baltimore instead.

Youngblood said...

Also, as far as Detroit goes, people have already "discovered" it. It remains one of the unsung music capitals of the world. It's still the home of techno in the United States, and the place to live if you want to make it in that scene. The rollicking rock and rap scene of the 1990's launched the careers of performers who are household names today (Eminem and Kid Rock). The city's garage rock scene is huge and has steadily grown over the last decade.

Slow Joe said...

She's just another tired nasty partisan.

Admit it: if you want to be an artist, you should move to a place like Texas, where you can have a good life affordably. Live in a Texan city or town, get a job, and make your art.

Oh wait, artists don't want to actually be part of society and work... they just want to make art and sell it? Probably still better off in a place like Texas, but I don't really want you losers to come here if you can't get a job.

veni vidi vici said...

Sorry Moose, you're incorrect.

It's from "Fear of Music".

Balfegor said...

The city of Detroit is also setting about bulldozing all those buildings and tearing up the streets. Costs too much to keep them maintained.

They did -- or tried to do -- the same thing to New York. See, e.g. the destruction of the old Penn Station, which was hugely expensive to maintain. I suppose the difference was that they were actually trying to maintain it, whereas in Detroit, they gave up on a lot of the beautiful buildings a generation ago. But still. I don't think this really invalidates the comparison -- Detroit is just a bit further along the path of urban decay than New York ever was.

You didn't even address the fact that the entire local government is corrupt.

So is/was New York in its artistic heyday. I don't know that it reached dystopian Detroit levels, back in the 70s, but I understand it was pretty grotesque.

Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

One word:

Austin

Mitch H. said...

Y'all are making a category error. When Patti Smith says "young people", she's thinking of young punks like herself back in the Seventies, when NYC was Detroit write huge. Of *course* she would have loved Detroit as it is today - it's what everybody thought NYC was on the track towards when she moved there.

Vermin love decaying ruins. It's their milieu. And really, when Smith says "young people", she means vermin - destructive, wild, corruptible, vicious, lacking in morality or ethics. Brutes fleeing civilization, looking for a decadent corner of creation suitable for demolition and a new start of savagery and barbarism.

Rialby said...

I don't want to come across as paranoid here but this is what I've been cogitating on for a while -

What is to stop a foreign country with significant amounts of money from purchasing large tracts of land in a dying city in America? They could set up their own ethnic ghettos and make a city into an ethnic center.

The most obvious example is Detroit and the most obvious ethnicity has already colonized nearby Dearborn.

Rialby said...

Before you tell me I'm crazy go read Microtrends by Mark Penn. He points to the fact that real estatr became expensive in NY not because there are so many US billionaires scooping up 5M condos but bc EMEA and APAC were investing.

Go google foreign real estate investment detroit.

Youngblood said...

Mitch H wrote:

"Vermin love decaying ruins. It's their milieu. And really, when Smith says 'young people', she means vermin - destructive, wild, corruptible, vicious, lacking in morality or ethics. Brutes fleeing civilization, looking for a decadent corner of creation suitable for demolition and a new start of savagery and barbarism."

At least they weren't jerking off to lolicon!

Slow Joe said...

"Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

One word:

Austin"

Austin is more conservative than major parts of Houston. I have lived in both and live in Austin. I have Republican representation aside from local leaders (who trend liberal all over red states for various reasons).

I know I'm supposed to just accept that Austin is as liberal as San Fransisco and Madison, but while it's not very conservative, it's certainly a lot more moderate than people give it credit for being.

Sure, we have a lot of nuts, and indeed, we have a lot of artists and students and writers, but we also have a *huge* number of pretty darn conservative people. If you can't stand Republicans, you don't belong in Austin. It's not even close to the most liberal place in that particular region. Not even in the top 5, by my measure.

Anwyay, indeed, most of the artists I know in Austin have normal jobs before their art makes them a living. That's really all you need to succeed, in my opinion. Or a really nice spouse.

Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

I have no opinion on Austin's conservatism or lack thereof. I was just pointing out that lots of artists do in fact move to Texas.

Slow Joe said...

"Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

I have no opinion on Austin's conservatism or lack thereof. I was just pointing out that lots of artists do in fact move to Texas."

You're absolutely right. And they are smart to do it, too. Texas is a great place to live for many reasons. I think it's critical to get some kind of work, but if you're a starving artist type, I think even a part time gig would make you a better artist and be enough to afford a peasant lifestyle.

I just get annoyed at how people think Austin is this liberal enclave. It's not even that liberal compared to the actual liberal parts of the state. It's so much more like yuppie Dallas than it is like the 4th Ward or Berkeley (which is a fair comparison, given the schools).

David said...

Surprising that Smith, who has lived in New York for so many years, would make the common mistake of hearing New York City and thinking only Manhattan.

Why are you surprised?

She probably been to Park Slope, but that's about it.

Again "Patti Smith reveals self as another rich old fool."

Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

I mostly agree with you. And despite your obvious ideological differences with Smith, I'm actually fairly sure that she would agree with you, too. When Smith says that New York has closed itself off to "the young and the struggling", I'm pretty sure she means working artists who are busting their ass to pay their dues.

New York has become a lot less hospitable to those types at the same time that a lot of other cities have become much more interested in attracting them. At the same time, the digital revolution, cheap shipping, and cheap air traval have all decreased the need for artists to base themselves in NYC in the first place.

Seriously, if you've lived in New York and you've been involved in the art scene, then you can definitely see that it's on the verge of imploding. The people paying their dues there today are, in a very real sense, dilettantes and long-term tourists.

Kirby Olson said...

New York at the time Smith moved there had a 2 billion deficit (money needed was 12.2 billion but city's income was only 10 billion).

Taxes helped close the gap.

I wonder where I'd go now if I was young, single, and looking for a place.

Seattle was where I chose back then. It had also gone bust. There was a 30% vacancy rate. Grunge was just beginning to get going (1981).

My novel Temping (Black Heron Press, 2006), is set in that time period. I was a temp for about a decade. I could live fairly easily on 500 dollars a month. That meant about a week's work, usually on the campus of the University of Washington, but sometimes I'd work downtown, too.

I don't know if anybody's still Temping. All you had to know how to do was type.

I could type 120 words a minute.

So it was a cinch.

Slow Joe said...

I only rarely visit NYC. Great pizza. I don't really see why it would matter that Manhattan in particular is too expensive for artists. How does being in Manhattan relate to being an artist, anyway?

In today's world, the internet has connected everyone. You don't need to be in some giant rich city anymore. In the USA, it's not even that hard to have a comfortable life. We should be having a golden age of art, totally decentralized. But sadly, we are also decadent and have little curiosity. Art has become much less interesting and insightful, in my opinion. I am picky about it.

I think New York is an unpleasant place for be for more than a few days, and I honestly would advice artists to go ahead and find a cheaper place to live. Detroit? Hell no. But sure, get our of Manhattan unless you're earning 6 figures.

Almost Ali said...

...the common mistake of hearing New York City and thinking only Manhattan.

"New York City" is Manhattan. The 'common mistake' is substituting Brooklyn or Queens or even Staten Island for... Manhattan.

Thus, "art" outside Manhattan (ie NYC) will be less. Had Andy Warhol lived in Williamsburg, he would've painted Lipton packets and peddled 'em on the street. And Pattie Smith would still be singing for beads on the D-train.

And just try hailing a tour bus for Queens.

Robert Cook said...

"Texas is a great place to live for many reasons."

And it's a not-great place to live for many more reasons: the Texans.

I kid, I kid. Texas birthed the Church of the Sub-Genius and the Butthole Surfers, two great anarchic and genius artistic institutions, (in their heyday).

As for Patti Smith, she gave up her rock star life and settled down as a housewife and mother for about 15 or so years when she married former MC5 guitarist Fred Smith at the cusp of the 80s.

They lived in Detroit.

She only came back on the scene after her husband died at 45 of a heart attack.

Artists can be artists anywhere, of course, but young artists like to live among other artists in order to enjoy the company of like peers, to enjoy the synergy of many artists (from many artistic disciplines) working alongside one another, feeding on each other's enthusiasms, energy, mutual encouragement (and competition), and group support. Such artistic scenes often give birth to artistic movements that achieve worldwide reknown and impact, such as the Paris bohemian scene that gave rise to modern art, (and the between wars Berlin milieu) or the NYC punk scene of the 70s, the NYC rap scene that occurred at roughly the same time, the NYC visual arts scene of the 80s (and the 40s and 50s), and so on.

Artists working in strict solitude generally will not so easily find such visibility or success or have such impact on their fields. They will typically remain solitary...and unknown.

virgil xenophon said...

As someone who splits time living in New Orleans and Marina del Rey but who also spends time in NYC, I would have to say Paddy O's comments about LA ring true. A very unrecognized (nationally) thriving artistic scene.

somefeller said...

There's nothing foolish or partisan about Patti Smith's comments. She's pointing out the obvious - it's a lot more expensive for a young artist without a trust fund or other means of support to maintain a decent standard of living in New York (whether in Manhattan or the outer boroughs) now than it was in her younger years. In fact, if she was a fool or a NY-centric partisan, she'd say that New York was such a singularly spectacular and important place that a young artist should be willing to make any sacrifice to live there. She didn't say that, and she essentially said that an artist should live in the city where they can do their work and maintain a good standard of living. That's good advice, and advice that isn't tied to the idea that the only place worth living in is the NY-DC corridor.

Incidentally, Patti came to Houston a few weeks ago for a reading and I had the pleasure and honor of hanging out with her for awhile at a party held in her honor. She had a lot of interesting things to say, including comments about the lameness of ham-handed political art and artists who are into shock for its own sake that wouldn't be out of place at this blog. I kind of doubt she'd be too impressed by the Gatorade guy mentioned in another posting here today. She's a charming person, and it's good to see she's getting back in the limelight a bit with her new book.

Big Mike said...

Newark?!?!?

Fen said...

Meh. Our "artists" need to suffer more.

mesquito said...

We don't actually mean "struggling."

More like "fashionably disheveled."

Eric said...

It's precisely because it's dead (and cheap) that it's arguably the ideal place for an artists' colony of young artists to set up shop.

A colony of aspiring gunsmiths, maybe. The artists I remember from my younger years wouldn't last a whole day in Detroit.

roesch-voltaire said...

I lived in NYC in the sixties when I was a struggling something paying sixty five dollars a month for an apt on Ave D enjoying cheap beer at McSorleys and jazz at the Five Spots. Can not be done today; my friends, mostly artist, who live there now have been pushed to Queens, and those who live in closer survive because of trust funds. I suggest Asheville, NC instead.

Bob_R said...

I think Smith's basic point is correct: you can't start a new art scene (as opposed to an establishment art scene) in a city like NYC is today. Not only is the cost of living high, but the regulatory climate works against new businesses. Regulations empower the status quo. What's going to open under Nanny Bloomberg: CGBG's or TGI Friday's? Bloomberg's NYC makes Disneyland look edgy.

peter hoh said...

Sweet Juniper makes me almost wish I were living in Detroit.

Dog carts, cool stores, feral houses, and kids learning to make bombs.

What's not to love?

Suburban trash. Other than that, Detroit looks totally sweet.

Will Cate said...

Pffft. What she means is NYC isn't a good place to be a bum anymore. Problem is, a bum is what you'll be without wealthy people to patronize your art.

But I haven't been there in a while, so I'm really just speculating.

Slow Joe said...

Patti doesn't sound so bad at all, I have to admit.

And really, it's totally impossible for me to care about people whose lives are so luxurious they choose to be artists. A lot of people got to bed wondering how in the hell they will feed their family the next day, or in bondage, or under religious oppression. If your problem is that coffee in the Big Apple is using up your crayon budget, I think you're probably a douchebag.

Join the Army, and draw stuff in your spare time.

Youngblood said...

"If your problem is that coffee in the Big Apple is using up your crayon budget, I think you're probably a douchebag."

It's not so much that the price of coffee is eating up artist's budget. It's that spaces are either gone or too expensive for working artists who are paying their dues to rent.

That's really the crux of the issue.

Also, it's not really a problem, except for New York itself. Artists can move elsewhere and are doing so now -- Austin, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, even Omaha.

"Join the Army, and draw stuff in your spare time."

I did that, thanks. I actually started writing my first play during out-processing.

Funny thing is that when I was in the Army, my buddies were like, "Shit, you need to get your ass to film school!" The officer who was in charge of my team in Balad actually called me into his office shortly before I got out and he said he wished he had the balls to strike out on an artistic career in his 30's.

Go figure.

Slow Joe said...

Youngblood, that's awesome.

I think joining the Army was likely really good for you, then. It's not surprising people in your unit wold appreciate talent, and of course, the Army can really help you go to school. Even while in the Army, most installations are close to schools that can get you started with art education.

Also, if you are single, you get a nice home you don't really have to fuss over very much, so your time off duty can be spent exploring art.

I was really kidding... the Army isn't for everyone. But I'm glad it was for you. I also think experiences like that can create depth. Hopefully you were deployed to Korea or Germany and able to experience different cultures, and also exposed to different kinds of people in your unit. The hard work most soldiers deal with also can be good for your soul, and it builds love for your country... I don't think you can be a good artist without some prevailing notion of love that isn't focused on just some sex partner.

Anyway, I bet the Army is better for budding artists who can handle it than Manhattan would me.

Youngblood said...

Slow Joe,

I know that your tongue was planted firmly in your cheek when you said that, but I actually agree that it would do a lot of artists good to spend some time in the military. I can think of few experiences with the capacity to broaden horizons quite like the Army.

I mean, I encountered a far greater degree of diversity of all kinds while I was in the Army than I ever did among the artists in New York, and the intensity of those encounters was far greater. (And I joined the Army late, in my mid-20's after September 11th, so I wasn't exactly unworldly going in.)

So I actually agree with you. I think that artists, and pretty much everyone else, could do with at least a couple of years in uniform.