In New York City, art flourishes grandly. Groups of friends congregate in parks, smoking and sketching abstract renderings of each other. Tote bags splashed with vibrant colors are sold at flea markets. Art installations breathe on every street corner, inspired by the most idiosyncratic minds, bursting with life. Dog walkers, street vendors, students and delivery drivers are more than their roles – they’re painters and impressionists, furthering their explorations of different mediums and styles.
Creators gather in cramped apartments to craft alongside one another, daydreaming of making films and painting stories in a language indiscernible to others. They venture to massive museums and gaze at paintings that have lived for centuries. They create out of a desire, a need to express with the canvas, the clay, the camera, the page. The widespread enjoyment and creation of art in The Big Apple draws many colorful hopefuls to pack their bags and move to the city in pursuit of creative dreams–of making it big, of having their own, crowded, lauded installation.
However, a city full of people searching for themselves isn’t exactly the easiest place to find a community. According to health surveys conducted by the City of New York, 57% of residents felt lonely sometimes or often. While it’s easy for some, the daily grind of the city, the constant creative pushes to make more money and the tireless self-promotion for industry gain can leave NYC transplant artists hopeless and lonely, looking for a group to attach themselves to.
Taylor Carraway, the Cofounder of Happy Medium, a business that draws artists around the city to classes on figure drawing, watercoloring, and chair-building, asserted that finding a community can be difficult.
“I think being an adult and moving to a new city, any new city, can be isolating,” she said.
At Happy Medium, artists sign up for the session they would like to attend, gather in a small loft-like space and hone their skills alongside one another. Happy Medium provides the artists with quality supplies and a cozy, welcoming, judgment free space to create art and learn more about one another.
“[Art is] a shared experience that immediately gives everyone a common talking point,” said Carraway. At Happy Medium classes, “ones who come alone always make a friend. Everyone is looking for a bit of peace and balance in their lives,” she said. Carraway believes the process of creation and the expressive nature of art can give the attendees that peace and balance, whether they come alone or not.
Cat Chi, a creative director with an illustration background, recently attended her first figure drawing session at Happy Medium and enjoyed it greatly. “I think vulnerability and openness to new experiences can be powerful catalysts for forming connections,” she said.
To Chi, another thing that stands out about Happy Medium and other art groups is that they’re unlike many traditional activities, and therefore they help foster relationships in a different way. “It’s a way to catch up that isn’t centered around food or drink,” she said. Chi believes that although art is usually a solitary practice, there’s a reason Happy Medium and similar group drawing classes have been gaining so much traction recently. “There’s vulnerability in learning and developing your craft in a more public space that can help foster connection,” she said.
However, for professional artists, art is more than just a profession, and the need to create can sometimes cut down on time spent forming communities or enjoying time with others.
Annina Roescheisen is a full time multimedia artist who experiments with unique mediums. Her art involves “creating a bridge and making the invisible visible,” she said. She was born in Germany and grew up in a small village where she spent much of her time alone.
“Being an artist is not a job, no matter in which city. It’s a calling that is stronger than any barrier that you will find in your way,” said Roescheisen. She believes New York City is “beautiful and free, where people go outside and try to meet on dog walks, at museums, on dating apps. But loneliness doesn’t go away within you even if you are in the middle of a group of people.”
She feels this way about art, too. Even though artist’s creations are so unique to themselves, there might be another, less tangible reason why all these artists want to come together and form a community.
“If an artist’s painting was created out of a lonely moment – you might not even feel the same. You might feel the emotion of your neighbor and think that it’s your own emotion. You might as well feel the opposite than what the artist felt when he was painting. Art changes meaning depending on the perspective of you as a spectator afterwards,” she said. She asserted that each individual being’s nervous system and the way it perceives certain colors and lights directly impacts the way they might perceive a certain piece of art.
Zey Li is a student artist who is also involved with modeling. He spends the majority of his free time in Washington Square Park, a New York City hub for artists looking for casual sketching or creative discussion groups.
“Art, especially my art, definitely relates to loneliness heavily. Sorrow and pain breeds artists,” he said. Li, who also works with filmmakers and dabbles in the art himself, has met creatives through every facet of his life. “NYC is such a big melting pot, and talents are literally everywhere,” he added. “And life, man,” Li said. “Life brings so much inspiration to an artist or just any individual”.
Artistic hopefuls exist on every corner in The Big Apple, searching for a place they belong. Loneliness exists in all forms of art, creating a desperate need for community, for celebration, for love. Artists alleviate that loneliness by finding that much-needed community, sharing art with one another or attending classes where they can connect with like-minded people.
“To me, art is life and life is art,” mused Roescheisen. “In my eyes, community will inspire you every day.”