Talking With Paul D’Agostino, Art Editor for The L Magazine

John Bornet, City of Brooklyn, L.I., 1855; V1973.5.970; Brooklyn Historical Society
What do you think the biggest problem facing Brooklyn artists is today?
Brooklyn is full of art. Brooklyn is full of artists. Brooklyn is full of art galleries. Brooklyn is full of art festivals, open studio events, annual and biennial exhibitions, and happenings. Nonetheless, art in Brooklyn is imperiled by the very same problem that imperils a great majority of creatives in New York City, not to mention basically everyone in our five boroughs whose annual income would have to double or quintuple to reach six figures. It’s also the same problem that shuts down entrepreneurs everywhere in town, whether they’ve been running a diner for five decades or an art gallery for five years. It’s an obvious problem, and it’s one of which citizens and politicians are equally aware, but about which the latter never seem truly willing to do much of anything, and about which the former can do next to nothing. What’s more, the New York Times does a grand job of consistently making it worse by regularly hyping neighborhoods into bland standards of bourg-wallstreet-sie desirability, and the increasingly common practice of selling off properties to shell corporations certainly doesn’t help. Oh hell, we all know what the problem is: The rent is too damn high. There are certainly some artists in Brooklyn who aren’t affected by this problem that afflicts so many people in our city. If thoseartists have other problems, I’ll frankly admit that I don’t give a damn what their problems are, and it’s hard for me to fathom why anyone should. I will also frankly admit that Winter 2015 is an even bigger problem than Winter 2014. Maybe polar vortices and impossible rents are in cahoots to drive lower-earners out of town. Conspiracy theories are also a problem.
Do you see a way that Brooklyn could be made more hospitable to the art community?
Given the apparent intransigence of what I’ve addressed as the biggest problem, I’d rather see that get addressed somehow—or at least significantly budged—for everyone, artists and non-artists alike, then see what Brooklyn artists get out of it. Artists don’t expect freebies more than anyone else, by and large, yet like everyone else, an affordable place to live and work is a fundamental need, not just some crazy ideal. It would be grand if the former weren’t so often treated like the latter. For so many people in this city—and yes, of course, for a great majority of those who continue, somehow, to make it a great place for cultural productivity—it’s a need that needs real consideration. Or maybe it’s a need whose fulfillment needs a bunch of movies and TV shows set in some other hype-able place. Wait, that doesn’t work either, does it?

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