New York has long been a haven for aspiring artists. Decades ago, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side were filled with creative types all fighting to put out unique work. More recently, artists have started to flock en masse to neighborhoods like Bushwick in Brooklyn and Throgs Neck in the Bronx.
RECOMMENDED: Museums in NYC
Where New York's artists reside—and the effect that they have on their surrounding communities—is the focus of a new report from the Center for an Urban Future, a local think tank that produces independent policy solutions for some of the city's most pressing issues. The organization looked into data from the 2015 American Community Survey and broke down how artists are distributed across the city. The study found that there were 56,268 artists living in New York in 2015, an all-time high and an increase of more than 17 percent from 2000.
To no surprise, the areas with the highest populations of artists were mostly in Manhattan and eastern Brooklyn. But where artists are moving is particularly interesting. Bushwick's artist population, for example, increased by more than 1,100 percent between 2000 and 2015 (from 150 to 1,824). Williamsburg and Greenpoint saw a similar increase during that stretch, with the number of artists increasing by 1,248.
Manhattan is a whole other story. Downtown neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Chelsea and the Lower East Side all saw dramatic reductions in their artist populations over the course of 15 years. That trend could be a bad omen for those who have set up studio spaces in communities like Bushwick. Large artist communities tend to be precursors to gentrification, which brings rising rents that force struggling creatives out of their nabes.
The Center for an Urban Future floated one interesting solution to help curb displacement of artists across the city: allow artists and public schools to share facilities. One of the biggest obstacles for struggling or up-and-coming painters, sculptors and performers in New York is the cost of renting studio space. After school hours and during the summer, many of these spaces go unoccupied.
"Opening up these spaces to local artists could help address the massive need for studio space while strengthening arts education and exposure in neighborhoods and schools that could benefit enormously from a more deeply embedded arts community," the report said.
It's a pretty idealistic, utopian solution, but it's also the kind of innovative thinking that New York's artist community needs in the 21st century to survive—especially as rents continue to skyrocket.