It’s become all too common in New York City — artists move into a neighborhood, make it trendy and culturally vibrant, and then are forced out by rising rents. It happened in Greenwich Village, Soho, the East Village, DUMBO, and Williamsburg. Do not be disheartened, though, there are still plenty of artist enclaves with thriving creative communities. Ahead are our ten current frontrunners — some may surprise you!
The interior of the Guggenheim Museum; Image via Wikimedia Commons
It’s not your wealthy grandmother’s neighborhood anymore. In recent years, the Upper East Side has seen a huge influx of post-college graduates still eager to stay in the heat of Manhattan, but no longer able to afford their traditional go-to neighborhoods like the East Village and Lower East Side. Though Chelsea is the gallery capital of the City, the Upper East Side is quickly rising in its artistic prominence. As the New York Times recently reported, real estate is to thank for this: “With rents rising elsewhere, space along 57th Street and on or just off Madison Avenue, from the 60s to the low 80s, is newly attractive.” And let’s not forget Museum Mile.
The Newark Museum in the heart of downtown Newark; Image © Newark Film & TV
Just a quick Path-train ride away, Newark, NJ, the state’s largest and oldest city, is much more than the airport and Turnpike. The progressive and eclectic arts scene is evident through the Newark Arts Council, which is dedicated to “bringing the transformative power of the arts into the lives of those who live in, work in, and visit Newark through programs, advocacy, promotion, education, and coordination.” There are over a dozen art galleries in the budding city, as well as the Newark Museum, which offers an Artist-in-Residence program, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Plus, one-bedroom rentals less than $1,000/month abound in Newark.
The Studio Museum in Harlem on 125th Street; Image © Rogers Marvel Architects
The West 125th Street corridor is a bustling thoroughfare with the Studio Museum in Harlem, Marcus Samuelsson’s lauded restaurant the Red Rooster, and the historic Apollo Theater. The West Harlem Art Fund helps artists realize their public-art projects, and the Harlem Arts Alliance works with emerging and established artists to bring arts and culture into the community. Harlem one-bedroom rentals average between $1,200-$1,500/month, and there is a combination of historic brownstones and modern, luxury buildings that make up the real estate pool.
A PS1 ‘Summer Warm Up’ in the museum courtyard; Image via MoMA PS1
The Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, the Fisher Landau Center for Art, MoMA PS1, and the SculptureCenter—all of these artistic institutions are located in the rapidly transforming Queens neighborhood of Long Island City. Public outcry over the recent loss of the 5Pointz graffiti museum brought attention to the importance of arts and culture in this community. The abundance of studio space, converted industrial buildings, and waterfront parks also make this a great place for artists to secure a home now, while it is still affordable.
An event at Bushwick Open Studios 2012; Image © Art Observed
For those who can’t afford the skyrocketing rents of trendy Williamsburg, Bushwick is the new frontier for unpretentious, experimental art. Each spring, volunteer organization Arts in Bushwick puts on the three-day festival Bushwick Open Studios, which is New York’s largest open studios event. In addition to contemporary visual arts, the affordable warehouse spaces in the neighborhood also attract a great deal of performance art. With a two-bedroom apartment renting for roughly $2,100/month, Bushwick has a lot to offer emerging artists.
Pratt Institute Sculpture Garden; Image © Mille Fiori Favoriti
An especially great find for artists attending Pratt in neighboring Clinton Hill, Fort Greene is ripe with arts and culture. From the larger-than-life BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) to the Mark Morris Dance Center, the community’s institutions serve both the community’s long-time residents to its new, young artists of all disciplines. Other notable arts spots include the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, the Irondale Ensemble Project, and BRIC, which “presents contemporary art, performing arts, and community media programs that reflect Brooklyn’s creativity and diversity.” For all those crafty Brooklynites, Fort Greene is also home to Brooklyn Flea’s flagship location with over 150 vendors.
A theater in the Museum of the Moving Image; Image © Cinespect
An easy commute into Manhattan and a waterfront park that some say is the backdrop for the city’s most marriage proposals, are just two reasons why young 20-somethings are flocking to this Queens neighborhood. The recently renovated Museum of the Moving Image has brought a new cultural breadth into the community, which is likely to continue growing, so artists are wise to stake their claim now. Astoria is also just a stone’s throw away from another arts-centric hood: Long Island City.
The New York Botanical Garden lawn; Photo by Mark Pfeff via Facebook
The Little Italy of the Bronx, Belmont is best known for Arthur Avenue, its main thoroughfare which is lined with old-school Italian restaurants and specialty food purveyors. On the northern end of Belmont are the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, both of which of which offer inspired scenes for painting and photography. Fordham University is also adjacent, perfect for artists looking to further their education. This is a great neighborhood for first-time homeowners, with Italian rowhouses hitting the market for $350,000-$450,000.
The Fence Show at the Staten Island Museum; Image © Bill Lyons
St. George, Staten Island
The often-overlooked borough’s St. George community sits on the Island’s north shore, convenient to the free ferry into Manhattan. The Victorian houses and rolling green hills of the St. George Historic District are a welcome site for those looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle and have more affordable real estate options (one’s monthly rent can easily be $900 here). Close to the St. George Ferry Terminal is where a downtown artistic scene has been blossoming since the early 2000s. In fact, a 2007 New York Times article called St. George “Williamsburg without the irony” and “bohemia by the bay.” The Staten Island Museum, landmarked St. George Theatre, and National Lighthouse Museum are the main institutions that anchor this vibrant area. There is the annual Art by the Ferry festival, and during the Second Saturdays monthly arts walks, galleries and artist studios open their doors for tours.
Summer along the Gowanus Canal; Image © La Casa Park
The industrial-zoned Gowanus neighborhood affords artists opportunities for spacious studio spaces. And the multitude of music and performance venues, including the Bell House, Union Hall, and the Brooklyn Lyceum, are great spots to meet up with like-minded creatives. Arts Gowanus also helps to connect artists and keep the art scene thriving. Another great resource in this collaborative community is the Gowanus Studio Space, which “offers space, equipment, and support to emerging designers, artists and craftspeople.”