Why I'm Happy to Be a Starving Artist in NYC

My first apartment in NYC was a 2-bedroom that my roommates and I converted into a 4 bedroom on St. Marks and Avenue A. For an apartment that could fit in my parents’ living room back in Texas, three of us paid 1,100 bucks a month while the 4th roommate paid 1,250 — she had her own bathroom. I drank only PBR because Doc Holidays around the corner had $3 tallboy cans while rice and beans made up a significant portion of my diet with the occasional pop tart. It was the starving artist lifestyle that forced me to take my writing seriously.  

The 20th century's unofficial rule that artists must "head to the coasts", "move to the big city", or leave the "fly-over states" has, like the promise of Lindsay Lohan's career, fallen apart over the last decade. Artists are, if not anything, individuals and the relationship she forges with her city or town is personal.

In an age prior to today's hyper connectivity big cities were essential to artistic activity. They provided a common space and more importantly, a common market place that brought together artists and the patrons/corporations willing to fund them. Individuals living all over the world can get themselves known just as well as any artist living in an "industry" town. An entertainment executive in Atlanta discovered Justin Bieber via YouTube while the latter was living in Ontario, Canada!

Lots of cities and towns throughout the world are implementing policies to attract artists and more importantly, young artists who may lack the means to get started. The site, Art Bistro, which is connected to the job site Monster, has a slide-show highlighting the Top 25 Cities for Designers and Artists that takes "into account growth rates, average salaries and the costs of living.” You can also check out Forbes list of America’s Best Cities for Young Adults to find cities and towns that may fit your lifestyle. My home state of Texas has a low cost of living, an amazing live music scene, and the South by Southwest film festival, which draws executives from my company looking to connect with filmmakers and animators. 

I wouldn’t trade my life in New York City for anything but I still think about the trade offs I’ve made. I work longer hours at my “day” job even if I am fortunate to work in the industry and my monthly rent is twice that of my friends living in “fly over” states. At the same time, recognizing the Firehouse from Ghostbusters or having the window from my bedroom frame the Queensboro Bridge as Woody Allen did in Manhattan pushes me every day to write, edit, re-write, and put my work out there to be criticized.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jonathan Smith

Resides in New York City. Works for Viacom International.

MORE FROM

The 'Pretty Little Liars' series finale reveals the identity of AD and answers 7 other questions

You won't believe who the father of Alison and Emily's baby is.

7 times women in Hollywood pushed back against the pressure to lose weight

They're not here to fit any sort of body standard.

Kendrick Lamar's "Element." video shows a violent portrait of black life in America

"I done cried for this shit, might take a life for this shit/ Put the Bible down and go eye for an eye for this shit."

Nicki Minaj was given the key to Queens. These 9 verses prove she deserves it.

"A star will arise/ And she'll originate from the streets of Southside"

Here's everything you need to know for the 'Pretty Little Liars' finale tonight

Secrets abound in the 'Pretty Little Liars' season finale.

Algiers' 'The Underside of Power' is a soundtrack for every revolution — past, present and future

'Mic' talks with the experimental, Atlanta-bred group about their latest improbable fusion of industrial, punk, gospel and soul.

The 'Pretty Little Liars' series finale reveals the identity of AD and answers 7 other questions

You won't believe who the father of Alison and Emily's baby is.

7 times women in Hollywood pushed back against the pressure to lose weight

They're not here to fit any sort of body standard.

Kendrick Lamar's "Element." video shows a violent portrait of black life in America

"I done cried for this shit, might take a life for this shit/ Put the Bible down and go eye for an eye for this shit."

Nicki Minaj was given the key to Queens. These 9 verses prove she deserves it.

"A star will arise/ And she'll originate from the streets of Southside"

Here's everything you need to know for the 'Pretty Little Liars' finale tonight

Secrets abound in the 'Pretty Little Liars' season finale.

Algiers' 'The Underside of Power' is a soundtrack for every revolution — past, present and future

'Mic' talks with the experimental, Atlanta-bred group about their latest improbable fusion of industrial, punk, gospel and soul.