St. Louis-based writer Sarah Kendzior has a column on Al Jazeera.com about the playgrounds for the rich that we used to call big cities, led by Patti Smith encouraging young artists to get the hell out of New York:
New York - and San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where cost of living has skyrocketed - are no longer places where you go to be someone. They are places you live when you are born having arrived. They are, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, "the vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself".
There are exceptions in these cities, but they tend to survive by serving the rule. The New York Times recently profiled Sitters Studio, a company that sends artists and musicians into the homes of New York's wealthiest families to babysit their children. "The artist-as-babysitter can be seen as a form of patronage," suggests the Times, "in which lawyers, doctors and financiers become latter-day Medicis."
This is the New York artist today: A literal servant to corporate elites, hired to impart "creativity" to children whose bank accounts outstrip their own. ...
In an article for Slate, Jessica Olien debunks the myth that originality and inventiveness are valued in US society: "This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don't actually like it."
She cites academic studies indicating that people are biased against creative minds. They crave the success of the result, but shun the process that produces it: The experimentation that may yield to failure, the rejection of social norms that breeds rejection of the artist herself.
Today, creative industries are structured to minimise the diversity of their participants - economically, racially and ideologically. Credentialism, not creativity, is the passport to entry.
It's a thick and interesting piece, worth thinking and talking about. Are city environments no longer conducive to creative processes the way they once were? Does it matter how many people provide social and cultural friction if all those people are the damn same anyway?
Then there's this news about a poor city: Detroit is giving houses to low-income writers. They have to qualify, and they have to commit to stay two years, but this sounds kind of incredible. Makes me want to Slog from Detroit for a while. Maybe The Stranger could get a slot for a rotating crew of writers. It may not be exactly what Write-a-House had in mind in its effort to help rebuild the city, but perhaps Detroit would benefit from a new nonfictionalist in residence every few months, reporting back to the nation from an outside perspective that's nevertheless committed to more than just dropping in (if that's possible)? I'm thinking out loud here. Basically, I'd love to see this project do well, and especially to include nonfiction writers. What a great idea.
Big h/t to Greg for both these tips.