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It’s not every day that I can make a connection between David Byrne/Moby, Francis Schaeffer and the importance of community. Somehow, that’s the way my brain worked when I read the Sunday New York Times headline “They Say Art Is Dead in New York. They’re Wrong.”

A little latitude here, your honor.

The gist of the article goes something like this:

1) It’s expensive to live in New York City. Apparently, one-bedroom lofts go for $3K/month and dinner entrees run $50. I don’t live there so I’ll take the Times at their word.

2) Most working artists don’t make that kind of scratch.

3) The creative class is heading to where rents are cheap. Really cheap. Like Detroit cheap.

David Byrne, he of Talking Heads fame and recent creative endeavors like collaborations with up & comers and writing books, wrote an article about artists being priced out of NYC. So did Moby, although I’m not sure how moving to Los Angeles is financially any better. I don’t live there so I’ll take the guy who made electronic popular at his word.

Now, in my way of thinking, artists are important. This is where Francis Schaeffer comes in. See, he had this idea that the philosophers (usually in university settings) influence artists, who influence musicians, who influence the general culture…and, as per usual, the theologians and Jesus folks get it last. Now, I’m not so sure the steps are that clear-cut (I think there’s a lot of collaboration and refining at every step so it’s more of a circle than a continually downward flow, for example) and it’s a pretty broad brush to paint with, no?

But, generally speaking, you can see where Schaeffer makes the connection. All you have to do is look at The Beatles and you can see that, right? Think about the steps listed and their career trajectory and you’ll get there. You’ll also see that the steps aren’t so neat and clean, but you’ll get the flow of things.

Anyway, a reporter sets out to see if the NYC art scene is dead or not. The headline is kind of a spoiler. This wasn’t what really intrigued me, though. He interviewed an artist collective and here’s a quote:

When I went to talk with people at the Silent Barn this month, they told me the place was struggling but surviving, largely on the income from renting out artist studios and rooms (for about $800 a month) and from the bar, which, they joked, has taken the place of the traditional angel donor. But they also said communal living wasn’t just about sharing groceries or the gas bill; it was, as well, a way of fending off the alienating aspects of the artist’s life.

‘In some sense, the nightmare in New York isn’t being broke, it’s being stuck in a shoe box writing emails into the void asking to play at someone’s bar or to do a show at someone’s gallery,’ said Joe Ahearn, a founding member of the space. ‘There’s lots of things we don’t do well, but one thing we do do well is to combat that kind of isolation.’

Did you catch how the author noted the importance of community in the artist’s lives? It wasn’t really about the gas bill. It was about “fending off the alienating aspects of the artist’s life.” The “nightmare” isn’t about lack of scratch, it’s about “being stuck in a shoe box”…it’s about “combating that kind of isolation.”

I started to think about the neighboring thing that has grabbed my attention the last few months fueled by books I’m reading and observations I’m making about walking with Jesus in the suburban context. Generally speaking, here, we aren’t suffering from a lack of scratch…

…we have our very own kind of shoe box. Our very own isolation.

Think about it for a minute. We are a busy people. We go to work. We have our families. We have our extracurriculars. We have our architecture of front garage doors and 6-foot privacy fences and our cocooning with pizza delivery/home theater. We nod politely when the pastor invokes the Great Commandment and loving our neighbor as ourselves certainly resonates with us.

And I am wondering if a connection about how artists are leaving NYC and how suburban aren’t going anywhere but we’ve somehow left our neighbors even if we still live in the neighborhood. If we’ve devalued the importance of community and put ourselves in an isolated shoe-box. If our headline were, “They Say True Suburban Community is Dead” could the next sentence be “They’re Wrong?”

So, the questions for your rainy-day coffee, patrons, are two-fold:

Have we devalued the importance of community? And, if so, what can we practically do about that?

Good to be back, at The Diner, patrons.