Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Culture of No Roots

Brooke Berman, a 38-year-old New York City playwright, has a new play up, "Hunting and Gathering," based on the tenuous existence of city artists like herself. She has lived in 30 apartments in the past 20 years.

"Living on money from the odd grant, temp jobs and teaching positions, she is emblematic of her Gypsy tribe — theater people are the original urban nomads — and a vivid example of the increasingly precarious domestic life of an artist trying to live in New York.

Rent for a studio or a one-bedroom in the East Village, for example, has more than doubled in 10 years, said Douglas Hochlerin, a broker with Bond New York, a firm specializing in Manhattan rentals. Last year, when the rent on Ms. Berman’s Mott Street one-bedroom, where she had lived for three years, rose to $1,550 from $1,350, she gave up her lease, beginning another bout of itinerancy, as she described it.

“It’s all about money,” Ms. Berman said cheerfully. “It’s not like I have a penchant for the transient life.”

According to Emily Morse, the director of artistic development at New Dramatists, “two major things have changed as far as this city is concerned: the real estate market and the fact that very little money is going directly to artists.”

She continued: “You used to be able to work a 20-hour week, pay the rent on your tiny studio, and still write your plays. That’s no longer possible.”

Starve your artists and you get starving art.


Anonymous said...

Bohemian or pedestrian activist life--that's my goal. I loved living in New Orleans during the millennium--I had no car, just a bicycle, which survived Katrina. I ride the bike around California now, it's even pre-rusted.

So. Student loans killing you? Starving artists and pedestrian borrowers alike may find moral support and useful information to take action:

Here are the essentials:

* Group name: Student Loan Justice California
* Group home page:
* Group email address

The national parent organization is Student Loan Justice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anya,

I think it's really cute that you are trying to change the world. I mean this sincerely. You are probably enjoying yourself, and like Barbara Ehrenreich you think that there is this intelligent populace that just needs to be awakened. You should read, "Dark Ages America" by Morris Berman. The point is that nothing will change! You are young, and young people should be idealistic. I am a disillusioned idealist, like you will be in ten years or so. You can't form a grass roots movement with a bunch of I-pod listening, video game playing morons. Things are getting worse exponentially. Globalization will rip away the gains of the middle class within the next ten years. Times will be tough, and killer Capitalism, the undisputed champion with the world will show its teeth. Times will get harder, young people will suffer much more than they are now. Have fun, travel around, talk to that 1% of the population that are not morons. Just remember that these are large global winds that are blowing, and I even doubt the ability of any politician to make any kind of change.

Good luck! I am more in the hermit stage of life.

p.s. Encourage more young people to learn a trade: Auto, carpenter, plumber...There are too many kids with debt from education they don't need. That is a fact! There are not enough good jobs to go around, and you know it!

Let's get real!