Days before Barack Obama announced Adolfo Carrion Jr.’s appointment to White House Director of Urban Affairs, the borough president launched a survey of artists in the Bronx.
The survey asks about ethnicity, rent, income, studio space, health, the economy and art.
In recent years, the Bronx Council on the Arts has documented a borough-wide culture boom. BCA assists 5,000 artists and 250 community-based groups, including 29 galleries, museums and artist networks, and 17 performance groups.
The survey will address demographic changes. For years, Bronx artists have clustered on City Island and, more recently, between Hunts Point and 3rd Avenue. Now they’re scattering across the borough in search of low rents.
“This sort of effort hasn’t come from the borough president’s office in a long time,” BCA’s Ed Freidman said. “We applaud it.”
Freedman isn’t sure how many Bronx artists will participate, but hopes the survey will reveal what he knows to be true.
Artists are leaving Mott Haven and Longwood for Wakefield, Highbridge and Westchester Square.
“The south Bronx – that’s not news anymore,” Freedman said. “Other communities are catching up.”
Sky-high Manhattan rents have catapulted artists from SoHo to Bruckner Boulevard. Bronx-born painter and muralist Josie Gonzalez hopes Philadelphia isn’t next.
“Where artists move, developers follow,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the big dilemma: how to keep the Bronx affordable.”
Meanwhile, Bronx art is ripening. Graffiti was born here; street styles and ethnic art forms still dominate. But a new generation of artists has begun to experiment.
“It’s an interesting time in the Bronx,” said Bronx River Arts Center curator Jose Ruiz. “We have a two-tiered artist community. One tier is artists with roots here. Another tier is artists breaking from identity politics.”
According to Gonzalez, who counts herself a member of the old guard, sculptors and performance artists have arrived on the scene. Freedman has noticed a spike in photography.
“Maybe it has to do with digitization,” he said. “We’re also seeing people doing crafts. Korean knot-tying, for example.”
City Island photographer Ron Terner completed the survey. Terner runs a gallery and teaches.
“This survey asks the right questions,” he said. “Is it going to get landlords to lower rents? I doubt it.”