Last Friday I decided to stop by 337 Kent Avenue a week before Fame Theory’s Live/Work event. Lucky for us, I was able to catch up with the co-founders of Fame Theory and get the scoop on the event for you. Live/Work, sponsored by Zipcar, Onitsuka Tiger and Blackbook (among others), showcases recent works by 14 local artists, along with portraits of their respective live/work studios. Most, if not all, of the artists will be present to discuss their work or to simply chat it up. The purpose of the event is threefold: to promote the artists, to celebrate artistic communities (particularly, but not limited to, Williamsburg), and to start a dialogue between these communities and the real estate developers that
prey on threaten them.
As I sat with my new co-founding friends, I couldn’t help but silently scoff at the idea of bringing real estate developers to the table in a grassroots initiative. I thought, “Great idea but, exactly how is this going to work and, from the developers’ standpoint, where’s the incentive?” Then my new friends sat me down, handed me a Red Stripe, and made their case.
What makes this event different from all other events (note the subtle, yet timely, Passover reference) is that Fame Theory is inviting real estate developers to their soiree in an effort to get them involved in, and perhaps publicly associated with, the discourse surrounding gentrification and its effects on local artists. The message to developers: if you are going to tout the artistic community as a selling point for your luxury condos, it is in your interest to a) help sustain that community and b) use the community in your marketing campaign (thereby infusing money and unwittingly – or maybe even wittingly – committing publicly to its protection).
The operative ideas here are 1) if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em; and 2) if you’re going to be a joiner, at least convince them that transparency sells. Is there a way to harmonize gentrification and low-income housing – yuppie-dom and authenticity – without more substantial government intervention? I’m not sure that Fame Theory has me entirely convinced that this is the way to go, but then again, I am often wrong. Either way, I applaud their steps toward symbiosis and am definitely stoked for the Live/Work event.
For more on artist displacement, start with the recent evacuation of 475 Kent Ave., just a few blocks away from the Fame Game studio.