July 30th, 2011
Carnegie Hall was one of the first places ever nominated to our Census of Places that Matter. We feature it today, focusing not on the music hall but on the little known artist studios that for more than 100 years have existed above the hall. Today, these artist spaces are imminently threatened with joining the lengthening list of places lost to creativity all around the city. Andrew Carnegie added the towers and artist studios in 1894 and 1896, shortly after erecting Carnegie Hall in 1890. Over the years, many artists have lived in the studios, like John Barrymore, Charles Dana Gibson, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, and Bobby Short. Others artists “just” did their work there, like Isadora Duncan and George Balanchine. Today, fifty artists remain, but a few weeks ago Carnegie Hall served them eviction papers. Now the tenants of Carnegie Hall Studio Towers are filing suit to prevent the eviction. See Jim Dwyer’s article in the New York Times on August 1, and Laura Collins-Hughes’ in The Sun on August 8. Carnegie Hall says it needs the space for operations. The tenants and their supporters say that destroying the studios destroys a rich, more-than-century-old tradition and an irreplaceable artist’s community. It also does away with yet one more source of affordable living space for the people making the art that sustains places like Carnegie Hall.