Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Will Artists be Squeezed Out of the Bay Area?


With this article comes a long winded discussion of how artists fare in a City overrun by high profile tech companies, increased overall population, and fewer resources to go around. In an unfixed market, the six figure salaries have no problem securing housing, while artists and other low income sectors are forced to relocate. This brings to the table a fascinating look at artists’ relation to cities in general. Cities are artist hubs, people hubs for that matter. A dense population crowded into a relatively small area of land. Artists flock to cities because this is where a lot of work is available, where folks of all walks of life want to go see performances and attend cultural institutions. Yet rent is always higher in cities and artists often have to force themselves to take on higher paying gigs which might not serve their personal mission statement.

Housing costs and development are on the rise for both a growing domestic population as well as globalization of cities; Chinese natives in particular are buying lots of urban property in the United States. “…real estate firms in San Francisco are now targeting places like Shanghai and providing concierge services in Mandarin and Cantonese to attract investors.” The City is working on providing resources and housing opportunities for creative and other low income sectors, however there is a current lottery exceeding 2,000 residents with only 250 rental units available. It is really interesting to consider how cities have become such a challenge for artists to work, when it is has for years been the ideal place for artists to aspire to live.



6 comments on “Will Artists be Squeezed Out of the Bay Area?

  1. benjamendouglas
    September 18, 2014

    In short, the answer is almost certainly yes. Unless they do something to change the pattern.

    There’s a very well-documented pattern of gentrification that seems to happen pretty much universally. (At least in America.) Blighted areas offer cheap, run-down space – and artists, gays, and other creatives are the first to move in. From there, the place starts to get “cool.” Hipsters move in, people start making improvements. Pretty soon, it becomes a desirable area. Then it becomes too expensive, and the artists move out.

    Ultimately, that neighborhood will probably become run-down again. Crackheads move in, and – at some point in the future, the whole thing will start over.

  2. sobashhere
    September 18, 2014

    Sorry! here’s the working link for the article:

  3. sarasps85
    September 19, 2014

    The story is repeated again and again. Artists, artists studios, and arts organizations incentive the growth of privileged areas inside the cities and than are forced to move. The same happens in Europe AND in Asia. Just this week I received the news that another art space is moving because of property speculation, even though they had to kind of hide it:

    “Para Site first opened its doors in Sheung Wan in 1997 (after being founded in early 1996 in Kennedy Town) when the neighborhood was mainly a local and traditional residential area, punctuated with small, family-run businesses. Over the last few years, the neighborhood has undergone a significant transformation and is now home to trendy cafes and boutiques. Para Site’s move reflects not only the institution’s growth into a mid-size art center of international relevance, but also a desire to remain close to the organization’s roots, and its engagement with Hong Kong’s complex society. The new venue in North Point will be set in one of the densest places on Earth and one of the most socially diverse neighborhoods of Hong Kong.”

  4. carolynsupinka18
    September 19, 2014

    In Pittsburgh, a lot of my fellow art-school graduates ended up staying in the city rather than moving directly to New York or another bigger city to pursue their practice. They cite a long list of reasons: they already have friends here, they’re familiar with the art scene and the resources it offers, and cost of living. This last one is possibly the biggest reason, even if it isn’t stressed when spoken. Everybody mentally agrees “Yeah, I can actually survive as a young artist here!” I’m definitely feeling the crunch here after my move to D.C.- the cost of living here is much higher than what I’m used to.

    I would emphasize the ‘young’ part of this article and argument especially. If you’re a young artist still working out your place and eking out a living in an industry that notoriously doesn’t provide a steady pay check, finding an artistic community that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to survive in is essential. Like the author says, it’s sad that for places like San Francisco where the arts have such a prominent history, most artists can’t afford to work there anymore. I’m hoping for an organized exodus where new centers of culture thrive in low-cost areas.

  5. yaoge2016
    September 19, 2014

    The answer to this question is YES.

    We endow city with various attractive traits, like uncertainties and huge possibilities, which make city life attractive especially for the young. However, reality seems to be heartbreaking. Young artist who are supposed to seek their careers in big city find it hard to afford the living cost of city.

    Artists always struggle in the economy-driven society, because they contribute to the spirit, not the daily necessity of many people, which resulting in the neglect of their living situation. Things are better in SF for the governments “actually has a strategy to encourage housing for the creative class, along with all those in need” than many other cities the governors of which haven’t recognized the important function of artists. The situation is similar for many arts organizations, because of the high rent of central city, they have to relocate their site to the suburb.
    I wish the masses and governments pay more attention to the artists and art organizations so as not to make the city “cultural desert”.

  6. alexgilbertschrag
    September 19, 2014

    I knew that this article sounded familiar to something else I had read written by a man currently living in Venice:

    It’s interesting that this seems to be a continuing issue with big cities. I do wonder with rent pricing continuing to rise, if there will be someway that they counteract these issues. The idea of subsidized housing seems to becoming a bit more prevalent. Artspace in DC is beginning to provide subsidized artist residences to those who qualify and are admitted.

    If this happens more in NYC, perhaps there will be someway of balancing it all:

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