William Powhida, a New York-based artist best known for his 2011 stunt of putting on a “VIP Douchebag”-inspired performance art show at the gallery Marlborough Chelsea, now seems to have something more serious to say.
In new drawings created for Envision New York 2017, an online public art project that asked artists to envision the city’s future, Powhida warns of a problem that acutely affects him: the loss of affordable studio space in North Brooklyn due to hyper-fast gentrification.
If this sounds like a story we’ve all heard, Powhida — who lost his studio at 173 North 3rd Street after the building was sold as part of a a $66 million deal — has put his own spin on it, suggesting artists solve the problem by joining together to buy commercial properties as trusts or corporations. These properties, he writes, would be owned in perpetuity as studio spaces, in order to forever ward off hungry developers.
Powhida, whose work most often serves as a critique of the upper echelon of the art world, said he chose this subject — different for him — because “it was something that seemed doable, something we could work together on that would be able to actually help artists.”
In the drawing, Powhida cites a number other Bushwick artists who are working with him on , including Jules de Balincourt (whom he call “the instigator”), Lynn Sullivan (“the artist”) and Paddy Johnson (“the blogger” behind Art F City).
“The status quo is for artists to pay what they can for however long they can until they can’t and move on,” Powhida writes in the drawing. “[Ours] is an idea where artists try to become their own landlords and stewards of the space.”