Artist-Industrial Complex

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Gone are the New York days of cheap artist studios for the ambitious but low on dough — unless you’re willing to trek to Industry City, where we found at least one space going for less than $2 a square foot.

Where exactly is this promised land? Bounded by 2nd and 3rd Aves., and 32nd and 39th Sts. in Sunset Park, Industry City is a six-million-square-foot swath of industrial buildings within the 24-acre Bush Terminal, built in the early 1900s when the borough’s waterfront was a bustling port and trading center. Now owned by Industry City Associates, the complex bears traces of the past — like rail tracks for trains that used to service the terminal — and industrial businesses that employ thousands of people. (On the very day I was visiting, I could smell syrupy sweetness wafting down the long hallways, the telltale scent of 85-year-old flavor-making company Virginia Dare operating upstairs).

So far, the most visible concentration of artists is taking root at 55 33rd St. and 882 Third Ave., home now to Diapason Gallery, which is devoted to sound art, and Light Industry, where founders Ed Halter and Thomas Beard started a weekly series dedicated to film and electronic art. Every Tuesday night since March, crowds of up to 100, standing or stuck to their folding chairs in the non-air conditioned room, chug down beer and watch an amazingly diverse array of celluloid talent curated by a rotating set of artists. Already they’ve attracted luminaries like Cory Arcangel (pictured) and tonight, filmmaker William E. Jones will present two Fred Halsted films, “L.A. Plays Itself” and “Sex Garage,” considered classics of gay porn, and the only pornographic films, gay or straight, in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

“I think all parties involved are very much aware of the patterns of gentrification in neighborhoods like Williamsburg,” Beard explains, “and have made a point to try and think of new paradigms for industrial redevelopments, models that don’t displace existing communities but rather incorporate cultural and industrial production side by side.”

studiospace.jpgLight Industry moved in early through an “in” with a woman who works for Industry City Associates. There are still rent-stabilized spaces left for mid-career artists, as well as market-rate studios with a little more glitz (AC units, more windows), but getting one takes either luck on Craigslist or dogged persistence in the form of showing up and asking around, since the landlord offers no contact information for the affordable studios — yet — or emailing the landlord here>>

A website is in the works, too, and we’ll note it here once it’s live.

In the meantime, it’s refreshing to see that luxury condos and big box stores along Brooklyn’s waterfront haven’t totally crowded out the old and the new industries.

Sent by Alicia. Photos by Alicia, and Cory Arcangel photo by Damien Crisp.

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