DC No Home for Your Fine Arts Career? The Great Migration

Wa Post arts writer Blake Gopnik pens an interesting piece today on artists who begin their career in DC and then drive their Conestoga’s to New York in search of the art world equivalent of greener pastures.  I think this is a conundrum that affects most of us working in the hinterlands outside of NYC.  I have been advised to move to New York myself on more than one occassion.  My reasons for not doing so are manifold: a spouse with a steady job (much steadier than mine, alas) here in DC; a great apartment in a great location close to parks, woods, great restaurants, the metro and downtown; after growing up as a modern day hobo, I am enjoying planting some roots somewhere; I am beginning to get invested with curators and the arts scene here in DC; an ill family member with whom I want to remain geographically close; the dog parks in NYC do not appeal (where is the grass?); the Bluegrass music scene here is soooo good.

I am inspired by artists like William Christenberry and Sally Mann (and all the others) who have forged their own careers outside the five boroughs.  I do not deny the energy and excitement that is unavoidable in the city, and I begrudge no one their inclination to place their grubstake there. It makes sense for a lot of people.  Curators like Daniel Cooney encourage me when he states, in a recent piece in PDN online:

I always think to myself that I want to meet the artists that are more committed to their art than to promoting it. I want to meet the artists that are in their studios not walking around Chelsea trying to get someone to look at their portfolios. Make good work and the rest will happen organically.

For me too, I am more interested in producing then promoting, though sadly, reality sometimes makes it difficult.

The article focuses on two emerging artists who have made the move to NYC as a logical progression in their careers.  Their success in DC is partially financing their new location.  It quotes uber-DC gallerist, George Hemphill who says that NY is “less the ‘there’ place” that it used to be.  Though another gallerist quoted in the article make a point of noting DC’s provincialism and love of “dabblers.”  No lessons learned from this, just food for thought.  There is the give and take of being a big fish in a small pond, and the balancing of risk and reward.  This we must all measure for ourselves.  I am just happy to see  that Blake Gopnik is focusing on a piece that is applicable to those of us working inside the beltway, because for a few years there I was not sure that he even ever stepped foot in Washington.


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