My whole career as an artist in New York has been annually running away from impending gentrification. Like every other artist in New York, I have had an amazing studio for a period of time, then the building gets sold, the rent goes through the roof, the neighborhood gets re-branded, blah, blah, blah. I am, in part, the cause of my own demise. I’ve had studios in Long Island City, the Lower East Side, and DUMBO. All three neighborhoods are now bastions of luxury condos with dazed nannies/tourists stumbling towards their next foamy caffeine fix. One could say this about half a dozen or more neighborhoods in New York. I think all New Yorkers have construction fatigue at this point—it feels as though we have been in a war, and we have. The developers won. But New York has always been ever changing. Something new, some new model, or a new way for artists to work will come along. I see nontraditional institutions as one of the few smart solutions to this very urban dilemma.
I like leaving my apartment in Chinatown (where a ninety-story residential tower is being built next door to me) and take the Path train to Mana. I like that it’s 19th century life as a tobacco factory now has 21st-century steel studio doors instead of stainless steel appliances. I see Mana as an evolving space, a mammoth complex that can accommodate and absorb a multitude of situations, exhibitions, and installations at any given time. It may be part of a new model for art-making in urban environments—creative hives buzzing with ambitious energy.
SEAN MELLYN is a graduate of Pratt Institute and his work is included in numerous public and private collections, including the Denver Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.