This week, Andrew Yang formally announced his candidacy for New York City mayor. And he did so with a splash, tapping Darren Aronofsky—a Hollywood director whose films are almost as notable as his vast collection of all-seasons scarfs—to direct his campaign announcement video.
The internet immediately went to town on the video, dunking on the candidate like….well, like Andrew Yang on a comically-low rim.
But Yang’s candidacy also brought more scrutiny to what, exactly, he was promising for New York. For the arts community, the unveiling of Yang’s campaign website offered an important look at his plans to support culture at a crucial juncture in the city’s history.
Ideas on the “Culture, Society, and Nightlife” section of the Yang site include promising “the biggest Post-Covid Celebration in the world,” making cocktails-to-go a permanent feature of the city’s culture, legalizing marijuana, and bringing full Broadway shows into public parks.
But Yang also offers some policy ideas of more narrow interest to visual artists. “Our administration will partner with larger institutions to help subsidize rent for resident artists in buildings,” the site states. “These up-and-coming creators deserve a place to cultivate their craft and the city has a role to play in supporting their dreams.”
Rent subsidies might be important to sustain artists living in one of the country’s most expensive cities. The city-sponsored CreateNYC study revaled that unaffordable rent was one of the biggest concerns facing New York’s creative community. In a time of economic insecurity and extreme precariousness for the arts, this focus seems worthy.
But, in terms of specifics, Yang seems to have a very particular type of priority. The next sentence of the Yang cultural policy reads, “Similarly, our administration would also work to attract content creator collectives, such as TikTok Hype Houses, where young artists collaborate. We need to help create similar artist collectives that utilize new technologies.”
For those who don’t know, the reference to Hype Houses is shorthand for a phenomenon symbolized by a particular mansion, Hype House, formed in December 2019 in Los Angeles. The dedicated influencer palace serves as a space where internet stars live together, make content, and hold court.
Other such “collab houses” featuring social media stars have proliferated across LA in recent years. (They have also been known to be COVID-19 hotspots, with the talent refusing to stop in-person partying as a threat to their livelihood.)
Yes, it seems Yang’s vision for rejuvenating the arts in New York is to create more communal living spaces where aspiring influencers can film coordinated dances.
Is there something inherently wrong with this? Not really. But it’s striking that this policy in particular was the hook on which Yang chose to hang his art policy hat, in a city known for its concentration of museums and art galleries.
To be fair, the Yang site does include one further concrete idea for the visual arts. The would-be mayor proposes that the city invest in a large-scale program of projection-mapping light shows on city landmarks. “Imagine the arch in Washington Square Park, the New York Public Library, or the Flatiron Building come alive with a projection mapping display.”
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