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Re: Buildings Department should Certify Artists?? Get real.

Posted by Steve on August 25, 2001 at 01:53:49:

In Reply to: Re: Buildings Department should Certify Artists?? Get real. posted by Seymour Duncan on August 22, 2001 at 22:49:40:

: Artists have an ETHICAL right to be in SOHO because they went in and cleaned it up when nurses, lawyers and college students were afraid. After they kicked out the drug dealers and kept the buildings from falling down, the lawmakers passed laws protecting the work they had done on the spaces. The galleries that the artists built became one of New York's top cultural attractions.

Well, speaking as a DCA-certified, one-time AIR artist, and a resident of three Soho lofts between 1971 and 1999, there's a bit of historical revisionism here. First, Soho artists didn't build those galleries. Uptown money did. When I moved to Mercer St in '71, there were no galleries nor boutiques. The culture vultures predated the galleries and the gallery money followed the vultures. There were also no drug dealers in Soho at the time, leastwise not working the streets. The streets were literally deserted after the factories closed. You could walk from W.Broadway to Broadway at 8pm on a Friday night and not see a soul.

Otherwise, I agree with your sentiments. I just don't think there's a snowball's chance of the city ever doing anything about it. A mix of big real estate money and big politics made sure of that more than two decades ago. Example: the most active early developer of illegal loft spaces in Soho was John Zacarro (Geraldine Ferraro's hubby). But it's also a fact that a lot of the starving artists who managed to remain in Soho into the 80s bought their spaces and are real estate multi-millionaires today. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

: The NYC Dept. of Cultural affairs doesn't discriminate against commercial artists, it only says that "art for commercial purposes alone" does not qualify you. Comic strip artists would qualify if they positioned their work as artistic, as well as entertainment, but most just publish it as entertainment. Entertainment and Art are different. Come to NYC and you'll see!

In point of fact, DCA's interpretation is even more convoluted than that, or at least it was when I had to endure the certification process. DCA only certified "fine artists". A professional classical bass player would sail through certification. A professional rock or jazz bass player was routinely rejected. I know that first-hand. In the end, I had to sic my real estate attorney on DCA to get my certification. Under state law (yes, DCA was empowered by the state for this program, not the city), DCA was chartered only to verify the artistic credentials of an applicant, not to evaluate his artistic "worthiness". A threat of a lawsuit bought Bess Myerson's autograph on my certification a week later.

It was a friggin joke. In the loft building next door to me lived one of the sleaziest real estate speculators in Soho; a fixture in the VV's annual "10 Worst Landlords" list. He had no pretense to artistic ability. However, his wife was an amateur jewelry maker so he was legal. Underneath him lived a Wall St attorney who dabbled in caligraphy. He got certified. Meanwhile, musician gods Steve Gadd and Michael Brecker were rejected.

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