New York Loses Its Arts Edge; Schamus Blames Gitmo

by Anthony Kaufman
April 5, 2006 2:12 AM
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"Water-boarding your potential clients is really not good for the culture," Focus Features chief James Schamus told a crowd of muckymucks yesterday at a confab at the Museum of Modern Art, according to this New York Times story. About 220 leaders, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, met to discuss the state of the arts in Gotham, acknowledging that the high cost of living (as well as an inhospitable foreign policy) is pushing artists out to other cities.

According to the Times, Schamus's bluntness about torture and politics gave the attendees a start, and yet mogul Barry Diller came around, saying, "We're certainly not an inviting place that greets people with a big happy smile to come into the melting pot."

All this comes coincidentally at the same time as the indie film community is deciding what is to become of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, currently facing a financial crisis. And while the Mayor's announcement yesterday that the city would create a new office to help nonprofit organizations "navigate the real-estate market, obtain technical advice and attract financing" is a positive first step, it's not the immediate dollars that these organizations need to stay alive.

My favorite quote in the story comes from Terry J. Lundgren, the chief executive of Federated Department Stores, who said the key to keeping the artistic community thriving in New York City was "to make sure that our transportation system is effective" -- because artists can't live anywhere near Manhattan anymore.

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