The arts and culture are alive and well in Westchester, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some holes that need filling. Here, I’ve created my personal wishlist of what I’d like to see come to the county (most of which I’ve complained about before). If you’re a wealthy investor looking to enrich the arts in the county, these would be good Christmas presents to Westchester:
1. A General-Admission Music Venue
Not to compare us to our neighbors to the South, but New York City is teeming with general-admission (aka non-seated) music venues: the Bowery Ballroom, Terminal 5, the Fillmore New York at Irving Place, the Knitting Factory, the Music Hall of Williamsburg—the list goes on and on, and keeps growing. (Anyone hit up Le Poisson Rouge yet?) I adore the Paramount Center for the Arts and the Tarrytown Music Hall, but seeing a musical performance is totally different when you don’t have to remain seated. People get rowdy, dance, and actually break a sweat. It’s a much more communal, interactive experience. Plus, GA venues are usually smaller and attract a different kind of band—the less popular but more hip kind that commands cheaper ticket prices. Fine, most of my favorite musicians fall into this category, so maybe I’m just trying to make a play to get bands like Bishop Allen to come up here so I don’t have to spend any more money traveling to Brooklyn. (Call me, Bishop Allen!)
2. A Drive-In Movie Theater
Film fans have a good thing going in this county. We have multiplexes, arthouses (and arthouses where the movies aren’t interrupted by the noise of the subway passing by every ten minutes like at the stupid Angelika Film Center), and even some good independent videos stores. I really can’t complain. But wouldn’t it be so much fun to have a drive-in? And isn’t Westchester the perfect place to have one? There isn’t a drive-in for a one-hour radius around the county, we have the space for it, and it wouldn’t matter if you talked on your Blackberry through the whole feature because you’d be in your car! That alone makes it preferable to the Greenburgh Multiplex.
3. A Comedy Venue
There are comedians in Westchester, but no stand-alone comedy clubs. Of course, that cuts down on the number of people standing on street corners hawking comedy-show tickets, but don’t we like to laugh? We’re not that self-serious, are we? I dream that one day Westchester will birth its own comedy troupe, a la Chicago’s Second City, Canada’s Kids in the Hall, New Zealand’s Flight of the Concords, and New York’s The Whitest Kids U’Know. Make it happen, people. Jokes about the suburbs written by city folk are lame.
4. Encouragement for Artists to Move Here
Yes, we have some programs and grants for artists. But I recently read about Seattle’s City of Music Initiative and was generally moved. Basically, Seattle says it values its musical history (birthplace of Nirvana!) and will use benefits and grants to keep music alive in the city. They’ll make concert venues tax exempt, offer more music programs in schools, and give scholarships to help musicians come to the city. They don’t think this will just be a nice thing for musicians—they estimate that the music industry in Seattle generated $1.2 billion in sales and $487 million in earnings. I think Westchester could do more to encourage artists of all stripes to move here. It’s an expensive county and it’d be hard for an artist to do so otherwise, but we can’t all be hedge-fund managers here (especially now). That’s just too boring!
Anything else to add to the list?