Why we’re leaving Boston for LA
(This was originally a post on Facebook, but apparently struck a nerve with people and has been covered by Cambridge Day, Vanyaland, Boston Magazine, Universal Hub, and it received a reply editorial by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in the Globe. We keep an up-to-date set of links/updates here. I also posted more extensively about what I mean by infrastructure.)
A message to our friends:
It is with many mixed emotions that Sophia and I wish to let you all know that we are moving to Los Angeles by September of this year. We are infinitely grateful to all of you here who have worked with us, supported us, and done anything to help the arts community thrive and grow. In a sense, we couldn’t even consider leaving if not for what we’ve gained from this support. There are many complex reasons for our decision associated with our health and well-being, but perhaps the most notable is that we feel like we’ve hit a sort of creative ceiling here. We really hope to find ways to continue working with you all, and we hope to find ways to spend extended periods in the area for creative projects as well. We plan to rent our house (let us know if you’re looking for a single family in Porter Square), and we ideally hope to find flexible, remote work (let us know if you’re hiring) that will allow us to have some ability to have several “home bases” available.
Now some harsh reality as we see it regarding the state of creative work for us in the Boston area. I don’t write this with any bitterness intended. I see a lot of people saying things close to what I say below, but it often comes without a concrete consequence attached. I’m presenting this in the context of our decision.
We’ve spent the last few years thinking of ways to build the industries that we need in order to keep growing here. We couldn’t think of anything better than to be part of making something magical here, generating ways for creatives to make a living. We worked very hard on this in a variety of ways. I spent time helping to found the non-profit Somerville Makers and Artists ( http://s-m-artspace.org/), with the goal of obtaining a building to make a space for a strong, commercially subsidized creative community. Specifically, for our part, we planned to create an affordable film studio to allow filmmakers in the area to stretch their creations beyond their budgets. A big opportunity came up with the former Powder House School building in Somerville. Despite a strong proposal presented to the city, when held up against other plans, we lost the bid for what was likely the only building that will come up in the near future that could work for this project (unless someone wants to donate $10 million). Ultimately, the city selection group opted for a condo project instead of an arts hub. (Artisan’s Asylum also was involved in a competing bid for the space, and was outranked, as we were, by several condo projects.) This was a really strong statement that Somerville (where I am on the arts council board — and the arts council itself has done tremendous and valuable work for this community for a long time) and Boston have not yet been able to put their money where their mouths are in terms of ensuring that arts can survive here. The cities love the benefits of the “cool factor” from the presence of amazing artists and arts projects ( https://www.lonelyplanet.com/…/somerville-rockin-the-boston… ), but are willing to ride on the breaking backs of creatives working without substantial compensation. I don’t blame the city really. It’s always easy to overlook arts in favor of just about everything else, and if you take any public-opinion poll, a tremendous percentage of people think the arts have no positive impact on their community. You ask for subsidies for artists and you can just wait for the employment equivalent of the#AllLivesMatter dummies to shout about teachers or other people who play an important role in society. No one wants to open their eyes to see the tremendous financial and cultural contribution of the arts, which does not come with anything close to commensurate financial reward.
Unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to find the support necessary to create the financial infrastructure that would allow us to continue working with an upward trajectory, and as much as new arts programs are touted, we just don’t envision a serious movement to make creative work viable within the context of skyrocketing costs of living in this area. Every year, more and more of our friends give up and move outside the city because they can no longer afford the rent. Boston, as a community and as an institution, fails to support startup and mid-level arts groups. Read more:
This deficit means that the city fails to attract the types of infrastructure that result in creative workers getting paid fair wages. For our needs, that means that there are very few record labels, booking agencies, feature-film production houses, film distribution companies, etc. We personally just can’t rely on crowdfunding and accumulating debt forever, and we can’t work under those financial restrictions to do better than we are now. We are just killing ourselves to pull off anything serious on tiny budgets. The true cost of this failure to value creative work is that people like us are significantly burdened by staying, and we are driven to leave. We’d prefer to stay, but it’s self-sabotaging to wait for sociopolitical miracles.
I spoke on a panel several years ago about the symbiosis between arts-focused media and the growth of creative scenes and communities. In a way, the media must invent the narrative that places value on the work. The death of local venues and local media ( http://www.mikeandsophia.com/2013/03/the-loss-of-boston-phoenix-is-terrible.html ) has been devastating in Boston over the past few years. This seriously perpetuates the cycles that caused their demise in the first place, and helps to bring about a situation where it’s difficult to imagine Boston becoming a burgeoning center for creative work.
For us, we’ve been very lucky financially. I’ve worked as a professor for over ten years, which allowed us to buy a house at a lull in real-estate value. However, the cost of living is continuing to rise, and while we have a fixed mortgage, our property taxes have nearly doubled in the past ten years, our health care costs have quadrupled, and our salaries have barely increased over that time. Despite being in a good income bracket, it has been challenging for us to keep up, and we’re just barely scraping by every month with no signs of improving opportunities.
We love it here, and we love the artists, friends, and supporters in this community, but without the financial piece, we just feel like we have to go elsewhere in search of opportunities. Life is short, and we don’t want to continue down a complacent, low-risk, low-reward path. There is no doubt that nothing will be easy anywhere else, but even if money and projects are hard to come by in L.A., there are at least more possibilities for what we’re seeking to accomplish because supporting industry is present. And with that industry comes an entire financial infrastructure in which at least some art has value.
I’ve not emphasized it much, but we’re also excited to live without winter for a while. Cold weather is particularly challenging for me, and being in Boston is a struggle every year from about November to March.
All this said, we very sincerely hope that geography is just a small divide and that we can continue to share our lives with all of you in the Boston area because you really do mean everything to us.
We’ve still got a few months left in the area, so if you’ve got any projects you’d like us to be a part of, let us know, and we’ll see if we can make them work. (As we develop our various reels and resumes, we’re especially open to acting gigs.) We also plan to do some anthology work and a few other small projects before we head out, and we hope to involve many of you.
Given our modern age, you’ll probably hardly even notice that we’re gone as we continue to talk about reptoids, to teach the controversy, and to start fights on the internet.
Football season will never be over.