Economic Woes and the “Starving” Artistby Ebele Chizea

Economic Woes and the “Starving” Artist

by Ebele Chizea

Published on Sat, Dec 13 2008 by Ebele Chizea

I moved to the Big Apple after many years in a small town in pursuit of a career in writing and publishing. New York for me signified Broadway theaters, poetry cafes, world renowned museums, Times Square and other attractions.

For the most part this city has treated me well. After moving here, I got my own place for a relatively affordable price. The standard cost for a single bedroom apartment is $1000 a month, and usually the space is barely big enough for that one person to live in! But even with the high cost of living, there are still a lot of things to do for free that people in many other states do not enjoy. For example, every summer, Central Park hosts Summerstage, an event that brings prominent and legendary musicians and poets to the stage. This year, I saw Seun Kuti live. I watched Seun’s incredible performance for free! Summerstage also invited Mariam Makeba to Prospect Park, Brooklyn around the same time. However, she cancelled the show due to exhaustion. Sadly, Mariam would pass away a few months later while on stage in Italy.

New York is one of the best places to live if you love city life and second, if you are an aspiring artist. It was in New York that I got my first taste of Spoken Word poetry and got to meet the world renowned Jessica Care Moore. Inspiration from various cafes led me to write and publish my own poetry book. It was in this same city that I got my first exciting theater experience when I saw the tony award winning show, RENT. Since then I have gone on to see many other shows including the most recent FELA!-a show about the legendary musician and human rights activist, Fela Kuti. By the way I recommend this show to everyone, theater fan or not. The performance is precise and the music will get you getting up from your sit and shaking those hips!

I love New York. It inspires my work and my everyday life however, recent turn of events have led me to question my commitment to the city and my aspirations. Since I moved here, I have had to hustle and work really hard for the “big break,” and even though the opportunities are plenty, there are still many people like me fighting for the same chance to be heard. I have been told numerous times to give up my focus on writing and pursue something more lucrative like Nursing or a Business Degree. For years I brushed off these comments. After all, Writers are people who are committed 100 percent to their craft. We don’t do what we do for money, we do it for the sake of passion. Isn’t that what makes “us” different from the non-bohemian chasing after money types?

But as the economy worsens and I start to feel the pinch of my own layoff (yes, it happened to me too!-sigh), I wonder if maybe they’ve been right all along. Many of my relatives and friends in the medical field, for example, have not been affected by the recent lay off phenomena taking place in the city of dreams. I had a Nurse tell me recently that even though she did not care for Nursing very much, she knew she would never have to worry about losing her job due to a bad economy and that to her was worth it. She also reminded me that I could also follow my passion on the side. Somehow I doubted that I would have the time to invest in what I loved when I was busy cramming medical terms.
This Nurse ended up handing me a Healthcare Program brochure from New York College. The other day during a frustrated moment, I found myself studying the brochure, a part of me feeling like a sell out, another voice in my head echoing the popular African saying, “man must chop.”


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