Updated: Mar 9, 2020
There is a long held and direct connection between New York’s economic vitality and its role as the country’s leading center of the arts. Great wealth, created and headquartered here, has brought a strong philanthropic tradition eager to create world class cultural institutions which bear names like Carnegie, Frick, Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Whitney , to name just a few. You see those names across many of our most prominent cultural institutions though they are the old guard. Some of the more recent philanthropists include names like Bloomberg, Schwarzman, Geffen, Diller, and Lauder. Some of their names have supplanted older institutional names, which is the prerogative of the mega donor, and they have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to institutions like the NY Public Library, the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center and the High Line.
The relationship between artistic effervescence and the city’s economic power is direct and symbiotic, but the larger, well known museums and concert halls are only the tip of the iceberg. In a city whose artistic vibrancy is ascendant in every branch of the arts, there are many locales and groups other than our best known cultural centers where creativity flourishes. These are the incubators and trend setters of what is developing. Those efforts are often sustained through philanthropy as well. For example, former Mayor Bloomberg gave away $254 million in 2009 to almost 1,400 nonprofit organizations.
The city’s artistic showcases, formerly largely centered uptown, long ago spread to (now former) grittier neighborhoods of Manhattan like Chelsea, Soho, Tribeca, and the Lower East Side. Those moves, in turn, have spread to Brooklyn , with Williamsburg and Bushwick leading the way. In Queens Long Island City’s PS 1, now connected to MoMA, is the epicenter of that community’s artists. And in the Bronx Mott Haven has become a haven for local artists and performers, as is Snug Harbor on Staten Island.
These moves to other, formerly far flung areas, are primarily economic. Where formerly, the artistic vanguard was largely located in downtown Manhattan, this is no longer possible with the exorbitant rents of Manhattan. The aspiring playwright or musician can no longer find the little garret apartment on Charles or Bleecker St, or even Avenue C. This has caused those communities to spread out to more affordable neighborhoods, all over town.
New York City’s explosive growth occurred as the center of American commerce. In turn it is also became the primary trading zone of artistic and creative services.
As long as the city leads the nation in raising capital, it will remain the country’s creative capital as well.