Marketing Mondays: The Art Neighborhoods . . .

. . . In Your City
Today’s post was inspired by this reader email: “I'm from Saugerties [New York], although I live now in Chicago. I have watched from afar the wonderful transformation of formerly down-at-the-heels towns into vibrant art centers.”
The reader was talking about the towns in the Hudson Valley/Catskill area, about 100 miles North of New York City, which I have written about more than once: Hudson, Kingston and Castleton, all the way up into rural Washington County, east of Saratoga Springs. As artists and dealers pushed northward, some with country homes, others in search of more space for less money for year-round living, a thriving art region has taken hold.

Her comment led me to think about the changes we’ve seen in art real estate in New York City and elsewhere. Everyone knows about SoHo, a downtown area of Manhattan that fell into desuetude after light manufacturing fled the magnificent cast-iron buildings south of Houston Street, and was reincarnated in the late 60s and early 70s as a neighborhood of artists’ lofts and then of galleries. When the clothing and home furnishings stores barged in, around the mid-Eighties, the rents went up and artists and galleries went on to colonize elsewhere, although a handful of galleries remain.
Cast iron facades reflected in the window of OK Harris Works of Art on West Broadway, still going strong after 40 years. Image by Hubert J. Steed from the Internet

Tribeca, farther south, was the next stop. Developers who lost out on the real estate killing of SoHo almost immediately turned it into loft-condoland, attracting the big-money bohos who would make it the wealthiest zipcode in the city. The galleries came and went quickly.
Chelsea followed. Formerly home to taxi depots, auto garages, light manufacturing, SROs and, er, “gentlemen’s clubs,” it attracted artists and dealers with its spacious warehouse buildings and storefront spaces. With the renovation of the High Line park and new buildings, rents are on the rise and many galleries are on the move (though the area still hums with gallery activity from 19th Street to the low 30s, from Tenth Avenue to the River.)

The meeting of old and new in Chelsea: A steam-fitting company cheek by jowl with the Paul Kasmin Gallery on 28th Street

The High Line Park, a greensward on the old elevated railway, has brought a bit of the country to Chelsea--and with it, escalating prices. There are still hundreds of galleries here, but many are decamping for places with lower prices and ground-floor spaces on the Lower East Side

Below: a view of the park

Now the Lower East Side, a cobblestoned neighborhood east of SoHo, once and still home to thousands of immigrants and ethnic businesses, is undergoing a similar transformation, spurred largely by the presence of the New Museum and an ever-growing number of galleries.

99 Orchard Street in the 1930s. Image from the Tenement Museum via Trace|, the Center for Archeology, Columbia University
Below: A few doors down at 55 Orchard Street, McKenzie Fine Art, formerly of Chelsea, has just opened its streamlined doors


In Boston, it’s the SoWa district—the area south of Washington Street in the Historic South End—which has embraced artists studios and lofts, galleries, and now restaurants. It’s Beantown’s answer to Chelsea—plus there’s parking. Of course the Newbury Street gallery area remains, smaller but vital, a small-scale 57th Street with much more charm.
All of this has meant huge profits for the developers from formerly unused or underutilized spaces, but that’s not the point of this post, which is Marketing Mondays. For the art world these transformations have meant more opportunity: more galleries, which in turn have offered more visibility for more artists, coupled with easy geographic access for those who view art--and equally important, access for those who would acquire the art: collectors, museum curators and commercial designers at all levels and of all types. (Yes, I know, there are still more artists than gallery opportunities, but there are more galleries than ever before, along with more co-op galleries and DIY spaces.)
The story repeats in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Santa Fe, San Francisco and elsewhere.

I'm interested in hearing about the art and gallery neighborhoods in your city or region that have revitalized the area.  Please share what you know! To make this user friendly as well as geographically interesting, please note URLs that provide information about the areas you mention.


annell4 said...

Interesting post.

grovecanada said... The Distillery District in Toronto...Was an old brewery...Artists came in & it became a destination...Then condo developers jumped in & now it is also a residential area...A classical Richard Florida paradigm story-how artists create wealth in cities...
Because of the success of the Gooderham-Worts Distillery project, Toronto then created The Wychwood barns in another forgotten part of Toronto...This was an old streetcar repair location...It is quite new but has already attracted the developers & the whole area has been economically infused & refreshed...

Unknown said...

I'm a recent transplant to Charleston, SC, and although I haven't been here long (just over a year), I'm seeing the same things that I did in New York. (I was in Brooklyn 15 years). Artists or other creative types seek out buildings and locations based on the availability of cheap, large spaces that no body wants, they band together, move in, have vision, make it cool, fun, and edgy, and the rest follow somewhere down the line to capitalize on it either monetarily or socially. Eventually the pioneers or forerunners, get pushed out because rents go up or styles change and move on to the next uncharted territory or neighborhood. I think cities need to realize how valuable an asset creative people are to their community and work towards keeping them their. In other words, their needs to be systems in place other than the almighty dollar and real estate prices

Jane Guthridge said...

The Santa Fe Arts District in Denver has taken Santa Fe Street which was a run down area and transformed it into a thriving arts district Also the River North Art District or RINO is an area of warehouses just north of downtown that is becoming a fantastic area for art and artists spaces. It has attracted residential, design and restaurants as well. Former Mayor Hickenlooper and now Governor is a huge advocate of Richard Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class" and has worked to promote investment in creative class.