As a child growing up in a 25-story filing cabinet for families and young professionals on West 53rd Street, I lived in apartment 10E. When trick-or-treating or selling my annual Christmas raffle tickets for school, I would get an intimate window into how my neighbors lived. We all have our domains, and regardless of how small they might be, they are ours. But what are we all doing behind those doors?
On March 5, the Center for an Urban Future and the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation hosted a forum on the population boom within Brooklyn’s “creative crescent.” The number of creative freelancers–artists, writers, designers, architects, performance artists, musicians, graphic designers and others–increased 33.2 percent from 2002 through 2005; now, roughly 28 percent of the city’s creative freelancers live and work in the borough.
The Brooklyn home is often more than just a place to lay our heads – it can often act as the genesis for our creative and professional lives.
My roommate happens to fall into this category. By day he is Will, a 27-year-old audio and video techie for a Manhattan cultural institution. By night he is TaeOne: a producer making beats for local rappers. On a recent Friday night, Bed-Stuy natives Keiser and Donwell, both in their mid 20s, sat quietly listening to some of Will’s samples as they boomed through the makeshift recording station set up in our living room. They came by to pick out which of Will’s beats they would use for their demo. While they listened, they made jokes, they spit raps, and they ordered Chinese food.
“Are you gonna rap?” asked Donwell of his collaborator as a beat came over the speakers.
“I will if you will!” responded Kaiser. Though hesitant at first, they spit two verses spontaneously, throwing the proverbial mic back and forth. After each took a turn at a practice verse they were ready to grab the mic.
Donwell got up first. “I’m outta control/way out of order/wylin’ in the booth like the phone stole a quarter.”
He continued: “They wear shades/they don’t wanna see somethin’/call me Coach Carter I’ll make your whole team run.”
Donwell’s phone rang. “Hello? Nah, we’re at the studio…” Suddenly I realized my living room was ‘the studio.’
All around Brooklyn – to nobody’s surpise – creativity bursts spontaneously from the home, home office, or makeshift office at the local coffee shop. My writer friends often spend Sunday afternoons working on articles in their local spots – like Greenpoint’s Cafe Grumpy, or Tilly’s in Fort Greene.
Another friend of mine lives with a fashion designer and gets to watch her creative process firsthand – not to mention the many models stopping by for fittings in advance of a runway show.
But back to the statistics! The same March 5 forum mentioned only a 6.5 percent increase in the number of Manhattan-based creative freelancers in the early part of this decade compared to Brooklyn’s 33.2 percent spike.
It’s inspiring to think of the influence Brooklyn has on any industry from music to publishing to design, especially as the creative talent seemingly dwindles from Manhattan’s professional ranks. But, eventually, many Brooklyn ideas will make their trip across the Bridge and the little hovels we’ve built for ourselves will create anew.