On Facebook, I stumbled across a new page lamenting the demise of Thinc (The Institute of A Now Culture), a loose affiliation of what passed for urban hipsters in Syracuse in the early 00’s–artists, musicians and such. Aside from catching some shows they sponsored, I never really was part of the scene (not being too arty.) About the only evidence they ever existed is a mural on the side of Boom Babies (and I’m not entirely sure that’s still there anymore.)
I remember knowing exactly when they were doomed–when they got an office in the City Hall Commons. I think Stephanie Miner was on their board when they became less of a collective and more like a non-profit. One of the founders even ran (sort of) for mayor on a write-in basis.
This was an early manifestation of the Richard Florida/creative class nonsense that many cities have embraced. Bohemia isn’t a development scheme, it’s supposed to be an oppositional culture. Gather your tribe around you to create a safe environment for an experimental and minority lifestyle. The key to a scene is cheap rent and like-minded folks. You aren’t supposed to be able to carve out a profitable career, you want to eke out an existence doing what is manifestly unappreciated and scorned.
When the suits can package your scene and sell lattes to tourists while they gawk, it’s time to move on. Patti Smith lived that life. Here’s what she says about the ability to pull that off in NY today:
Patti recalled coming to New York without money, when it was “down and out,” and you could get a cheap apartment and “build a whole community of transvestites,” artists or writers, or whatever.
Today, she said, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie… New York City has been taken away from you… So my advice is: Find a new city.”