In an effort to keep up and coming artists in New York, Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg plans to meet with the Department of Cultural Affairs tomorrow to begin lobbying for government aid for emerging artists. Executives at Galapagos, which presents 140 performances a month attracting an average of 8,000 people, say New York City is at risk of losing its status as an international cultural capital because beginning artists can't afford to live here anymore.
"There's not the inflow of young artists moving in the city like there used to be," says Robert Elmes, director of Galapagos. "The conversation at this point isn't whether or not there's opportunity in New York, but just what other city they should go to."
Mr. Elmes says his theater has already seen a significant drop in proposals from college students or recent graduates to come there and present their work. Instead, young artists are heading to places like Pittsburgh, or even oversees to Berlin, which has been aggressive about promoting itself as an affordable hub for emerging arts. The main problem in New York, Mr. Elmes says, is the cost of real estate. That has led to a slew of off-Broadway theater closings in recent months.
But here is the part that hurts for those of us who love Williamsburg:
Galapagos itself has started looking for a new space as its lease expires in two years. Mr. Elmes is worried he won't be able to find anything affordable, and that his theater too will be forced to leave the city.
It would be sad if they can't find a new space in Williamsburg. Perhaps with any luck the market will cool, but even the odds aren't good for anything near the waterfront. Yes perhaps Galapagos can go out to Bushwick and live again, but a bit of what makes Williamsburg special will be gone as of 2008.