A new organism is created when artists get together with people who want to be around art. This can happen anywhere, on any scale, but certain urban places feed the give-and-take with a special kind of magic. Population, amenities, collective energy and cash flow balance the living organism and support its survival. The relationship is delicate and timeless.
On a recent evening, I sat in a tiny, red velvet jewel-box theatre off off-Broadway, where some random superstars were putting on a play. There was singing, dancing and a 6-piece band rocking their scaffolding at the back of the stage. The local audience giggled, gasped and clapped together. It was a sell-out, without a lion king in sight.
On the subway, we transferred at 34th Street. As we rode the escalator up towards the main concourse, a wall of trumpet sounds reached the climax of a musical bridge — a full horn section joining in tiers of harmony, bringing home a last refrain. I heard the music before I saw the deep, dark crowd of rain-jacketed Wednesday-nighters. Applause erupted on the final horn blast, the soggy boots and faces for a moment saved by a local miracle.
Last night, a handful of young urbanites came to my studio for a pre-arranged tour. Their social club describes itself as a collection of “thrill-seekers, hard-workers and go-getters” — clocking out nightly to suck the juices out of New York. I watched as they glided through the long box of my studio and pushed their noses deep into my brushwork. They brought their own wine. A few still lingered with the odoriferous skunk of the private upstate liberal arts college and came merely for the soft landing of my chesterfield. “I’m colourblind. I love your work,” said a guy in an ascot.
This morning, the dusty light poured in from West Broadway while neighbours broke the still with a lover’s quarrel in the stairwell. The garbage collectors banged cans together and the go-getters hit the coffee shops. The day belongs to the workers and those who practice. Tonight, the organism will swell again with the giving and receiving of art.
PS: “I believe in New Yorkers. Whether they’ve ever questioned the dream in which they live, I wouldn’t know, because I won’t ever dare ask that question.” (Dylan Thomas)
Esoterica: The living, breathing exchange of art can pump with life in any place. It happens over the Internet amongst lone studio dwellers and on family kitchen tables. What’s important is the giving and receiving — a completion of the life cycle of creation. “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant,” wrote Georgia O’Keeffe. “It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”
acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
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