Archive for May, 2006

New York as a viable option for working artists. 5/2006

May 29, 2006

Montag, Mai 29, 2006 

Sent to New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. No reply or acknowledgment of  receipt was ever given, despite four attempts, including ground post.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

 I understand that recently you made a public address in New York, in regard to helping keep New York a viable option for working artists. As I am a working artist, who has recently been priced out of New York and have some suggestions on this issue, I thought I would write you to share these ideas.

There are three basic needs, without which a working artist can not survive in New York, which must be part of any initiative to keep the arts in New York.  One is affordable housing and the second is an affordable work space and the third access to affordable health care.  In regard to the former issue, I think the concept of low income, artist residential housing, embodied by the Westbeth project on Bank Street in Greenwich Village stands as a good model of what can be accomplished to provide for the residential needs of working artists.  Artist Residential Housing projects on the Westbeth model scattered through all the five Boroughs, would create a solid base for artists who are priced out of the New York housing market, and who wish to continue working in New York.  As at Westbeth it would need to be clear that residence be granted only to working artists (documented by education and exhibition history, without curatorial bias) and financial need.

In addressing the second issue of providing affordable work space I have some suggestions, which were presented in February 1996 for the organization Artists Talk on Arts entitled, NEW IDEAS FOR FUNDING THE VISUAL ARTS.*  I have for many years, and currently, work in Berlin, Germany for the simple reason that there are facilities accessible to artists here that provide ‘state of the art’ technologies in various artistic media.   These facilities run by the organization BBK Berufsverbandes Bildender Künstler Berlins, were initially funded with public lottery money through the Berlin Senate for Culture.  They include a factory building, Bildhauerwerkstatt located in Berlin-Wedding, which is fully equipped for large scale sculpture fabrication in steel, bronze casting, ceramic and wood working, and a second facility, Druckwerkstatt, located in an old hospital building in Berin-Kreuzberg, which includes printmaking technologies from digital printing to silk screen, lithography etching and offset printing.  These facilities are open to all working artists (again documented by education and exhibition history, without curatorial bias) on a daily use (day fee), scheduled basis.  The facilities provide skilled technicians, tools, equipment and materials in each media (materials are paid for by the artist at cost, plus any handling fees required by the facility).  There is no residence at these facilities and work is limited to fixed schedules, within a daytime work period. (In New York 10-12 hour access might be more appropriate). 

As I mentioned in my presentation in 1996 New York already has some seed projects, which with proper assistance via City, State and Federal support could be developed to provide affordable work space in various media for a far greater number of artists.  In brief, these organizations include: Urban Glass (for artists working in Glass) in Brooklyn, the Lower East Side Printshop in Manhattan, Harvestworks (audio and digital media) and Film/Video Arts in Manhattan and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.  All these facilities, with exception perhaps for Urban Glass, are in very restricted locations, which allow for only limited access and scale for the work undertaken.  Once provided with larger, and more diverse facilities, staff and ‘state of the art’ equipment, these organizations could provide excellent working spaces for a greater number of artists across several media.  In exchange for this support the organizations would need to be more open to artists, outside of any specific curatorial bias.

In addressing health care the Brooklyn Arts Council along with Woodhull Hospital, in that Borough, have engaged in an interesting new experiment to provide health care to working artists in Brooklyn.  Certainly if more medical institutions in New York City could be enticed to participate in a similar city-wide program that would help address this problem. 

I believe that it is in addressing these issues, that critical progress can be made for New York to retain viability as a working place in the arts.  I welcome your interest in working with the arts community to address this problem, and would recommend looking to the New York Foundation for the Arts for more information concerning the needs of New York artists, as they have undertaken a recent study on this question.  If I can be of any further assistance in this regard, please feel free to contact me.


Ron Rocco
* a video of this presentation is available from Artists Talk on Arts.  (Guests included: Ron Rocco, moderator, artist;  Thomas Meister, Cultural Affairs Officer, German Consulate;  Jennifer Feil, New York Foundation for the Arts;  John Perreault, Director, Urban Glass; Robert Kloos, Cultural Affairs Officer, Dutch Consulate.)


New York as a viable option for working artists.

May 29, 2006