New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, September 07, 2009

Local Color

The Howl! festival and its umbrella organization FEVA (Federation of East Village Artists) were the brainchildren of Phil Hartman, filmmaker and owner of Two Boots Pizza. Hartman was motivated to start FEVA to arrest what he saw as the rapid erosion of the spirit of the counterculture in the East Village.  

There are inherent contradictions with avoiding commercialization and institutionalization of any successful countercultural event such as Burning Man or Howl! Ultimately, these efforts do need some sort of financing and thus do not escape the grip of business. From the New York Times:

Mr. Hartman, an entrepreneur whose main form of transportation is his bicycle, is not oblivious to the paradox of his ambition. "The idea of institutionalizing downtown culture obviously has inherent contradictions in it," he acknowledged. "The counterculture isn't dead but it needs some institutions to keep it alive."

As early as 1969, when Theodore Roszak wrote his groundbreaking work, "The Making of a Counter Culture ," the notion of the free-spirited 60's was being co-opted, patented and packaged. The process has become more sophisticated now, in an era when Bob Dylan became a shill for Victoria's Secret - and Pepsi, which long ago recognized the marketing potential in the avant-garde, is a sponsor of the Howl! Festival.

"Some people have gone so far as to say the counterculture was hopelessly naïve if it thought it could escape institutionalization, that nothing does" said Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University and a former president of Students for a Democratic Society. "I have some sympathy with that argument. People will be glad to see their old Grateful Dead posters enshrined in a proper museum setting."

The success of the art community and events like Howl! create more interest in neighborhoods such as the East Village and only exacerbate the problem of real estate development and rising rents. The older regime of artists hangs on, protected by rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments, but it is essentially impossible for any new generation of developing artists to get a foothold in an area such as the East Village/Lower East Side. New neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, become the new "art districts." However, a desperate environment and rapid communication give these areas a very short window of opportunity. The lack of rent regulations in newly converted properties means that any favorable rents will last only as long as the length of a lease. Yesterday's opportunity becomes today's liability.

Even in a  recessionary climate, New York City has virtually run out of affordable housing. Enjoy the local color while you can...


Thérèse said...

Nice subject of debates at home, on city council agendas and among committees.
Very nice pictures.

Anonymous said...

How far out of the city will the artists have to go?
Perhaps it's time to head out to Richmond Hill, or Sutphin Blvd.
Get in early, buy something and reap the finacial rewards of being a pioneer 20 years from now.