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Largest artist community in the world

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Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : West Village
Residential, Housing

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Westbeth Artists Housing


Frances Siegel

Westbeth is a rich arts community and has been for over 35 years. It is located on the original site of the Bell Labs, which was also a home to creativity, as in Edison, Einstein, and all sorts of experiments and innovations.

Michael Moss

Music and dance are both richly represented at Westbeth. So many jazz musicians and their children, who continue to perform, have lived here that music festivals presented 30 years ago were reinstated just a couple of years ago. I love living here--hearing classical pianists from the hallways and the courtyard through my windows. Plus the acoustics in my apartment are perfect for rehearsals and even recording. There are many rehearsal studios in the basement and lots of projects have had their gestation in this hopping building.

Dance flourishes in Westbeth. Merce Cunningham established a wonderful dance studio. He rehearsed here, taught, and presented a cornucopia of modern and classical dance performances with reduced ticket prices and easy access. Nancy Meehan rents out rehearsal space, encouraging artists to explore, develop, and present innovative dance. Atmosphere matters.

One story--during one of the blackouts, my wife, Judith Moss, emerged from a rehearsal studio and the lights went out--as well as the elevators. She observed Merce being carried by his company members all eleven flights down (he was in his 80s) through stairwell lit only by a flash or two. Everyone was in a state of action which shows in a capsule the spirit of

I meet other artists in the halls, in the music festivals
in which I participate, and feel accepted as an artist--we all have this existence in common. The energy is strange and at times wacky--just like I want it. If Westbeth was no longer here, I'd miss the courtyard, the art gallery, the music studios. the dance studios, and the meeting places we all meet and greet old friends and make new ones.

I am concerned about the financial underpinnings. We are paying more and more rent and we are artists who just don't make the money others in our neighborhood can afford. Art requires financial support. It is the bedrock upon which much of the money made in the city is founded upon--creativity lies at the heart of New York's energy and Westbeth is at the heart of the creative process--we need support. (Jan. 2010)

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