Friday, October 9, 2009

Artist Myth #2: You have to live in LA or New York to be a real artist

TV producer Karen Newton has this to say about the allure of LA and New York. “The world is far too global now and if you’re a talented artist, people are going to find out about you no matter where you live.” This would explain why towns like Northampton, MA, Portland, OR and Ashville, NC are creative mecca’s and full of extremely talented and successful artists.

Consider this: Because of the number of artists located in New York and LA, there are more artists per capita who claim art as their profession, but that’s only because the population is larger.  There are also more artists per capita there living below the poverty line. It’s true that New York and LA are famous spots that will inspire your artistic spirit, but they are also famous spots for dampening it as well. I’ve had numerous friends leave New York because of the expense and LA because of the attitude. 

“It’s good to keep in mind what your trying to achieve,” says musician Dave Brockie, founder of the international renown band, GWAR . “Big cities are expensive. Big cities have big attitudes and lots of people are only there because they think they’re “supposed” to be there. Staying in a small town has actually helped us. We have a ton of cheap studio space that allows us the square footage we need to create on our own terms. The reality is that artists need space and if you’re trying to work out of a shoe box you’re going to severely limit your creative options.”

There are distinct advantages of getting your chops in order in the town you live in. In fact, it works to your advantage to get your artistic chops in order in your home town first before you even think about taking off to a bigger city.

Dave Brockie is a musician and performance artist who is best known for his portrayal of Oderus in the American thrash metal/punk rock band GWAR which he helped found. The band, which has appeared on The Jerry Springer Show, The Joan Rivers Show, and Viva la Bam is best known for their elaborate Sci-Fi horror costumes and graphic, politically and satirically-inspired stage performances that include spraying their audiences with imitation fluids. Brockie lives in Richmond, VA.


  1. I was actually originally born in LA, but there isn't a chance in hell that I'd go back there to "make it." Earthquakes and an overpriced cost of living seem to me like a recipe for disaster for any struggling artist. Not to mention, being an artist in LA would mean less to me (though not necessarily in a fiscal sense) than being an artist in Richmond. The way I see it, being an artist in LA or New York makes you one of the many, where as being an artist of any recognition in Richmond, Virginia, makes you one of the few (that's you, Slash). I don't care about impressing LA or NY hotshots with my work, I'm out to captivate people who otherwise have little or no knowledge of and/or interest in the type of work that I am doing. To me, that's making it.

  2. My career actually took off when I moved back to a red state. There's something to be said about being a square beg in a land full of round wholes. I think being a part of a traditional community where we may be one of a few professional artists makes our role more defined.