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An Artist in Defense of New York City


Recently several older accomplished artists have made public declarations decrying the death of creativity in New York City.  Young hopeful artists should steer clear of the Big Apple and find more fertile ground in other cities.  They’ve been vague about which cities are supposedly the new cultural capitals although one article cited Los Angeles as an alternative.  It’s safe to say that the entertainment capital of the world isn’t exactly welcoming to huddled art school masses.  Detroit was also offered up as a suggestion but it’s hard to picture artists thriving in a city that has actually debated selling off the contents of its acclaimed art museum.

New York City’s critics and I agree though, our cultural soul is in trouble.  I moved here in 2001 when the cracks in the artistic landscape were already several feet deep.  Once concentrated in a few neighborhoods, artists are now scattered throughout the outer boroughs. Some of our most beloved artistic spaces have died, while others have morphed into upscale venues.  Rents have soared, and despite this new injection of wealth, arts organizations across the city find it harder to fight for donations and funding.  Broadway has gotten increasingly corporate and risky work has gotten much harder to produce.  Things are worse for New York City artists then they have been in decades.

Most of New York’s biggest detractors are famous millionaires.  It’s easy for them to look back and see so many other options.  Did they grow up in a smaller city in a solidly conservative state?  Have they ever lived in the South or Midwest?  Did it ever occur to them that an artist’s soul would be crushed anyway living in the middle of nowhere.

Pursuing a career in the arts is like climbing Mount Everest blindfolded while a sherpa throws frozen carp at your head.  Trying to balance paying rent while pursuing artistic pursuits is an incredibly difficult challenge regardless of where a person lives.  It’s not like the high paying jobs in the arts are just waiting for applicants in places like Topeka or Birmingham.

I don’t have a benefactor or well off spouse.  My family is not rich or well-connected, and I struggle to make ends meet every single month.  I share a one-bedroom in a dodgy, crime-riddled neighborhood in Brooklyn.  My life is not exactly easy.  Regardless of the challenges I still call NYC my home for a number or reasons:

  • Audience – The rents might be lower in a smaller city but the audience to sustain artists is microscopic. I regularly performed on a stage in a heavy metal bar that was nothing more but a piece of plywood on top of paint cans.  It might have been a humble performance space but the room was always packed.
  • Resources – NYC has everything.  It’s not cheap but you can find galleries, theaters, dance stages, rehearsal spaces, recording studios, comedy clubs, art studios, and sound stages.
  • Community – My friends are film makers, dancers, photographers, writers, actors, comedians, visual artists, designers, musicians and playwrights.  There are arts festivals in every borough year-round with contributors clamoring for a slot.  Collaboration across mediums is effortless.  A musician can find a dancer, who can find a costumer, who can find a print maker and they probably all live off the same subway line.  Few of us make a lot of income doing our art, but we can always find a way to express ourselves.
  • Competition – New York City is not for the timid or lazy.  A few trust fund brats might live in a studio in Chelsea, but for the majority of us, it’s survival of the fittest.  Being around so many other gifted artists makes us all work harder.
  • Education and Training –  New York city has  Internationally acclaimed Ivy League institutions to funky art schools and some of the finest public colleges in the nation.
  • Politics – In NYC if a performance artist wants to cover their body in lube and roll around on newspaper while projecting a pornographic film on their crotch – no one will stage a protest.  Try doing that in Idaho or Alabama.
  • There is still that one in a million chance of success – I know a few who have succeeded despite the odds.  Try getting a television show produced or a slot on SNL while living in Saint Louis.

New York is hard, in many ways harder than it’s ever been. Generic corporate sprawl of artless residential towers and national chain stores infect nearly every crevice of Manhattan.  We are at risk of losing our creative soul, but we haven’t lost it yet.  We are still creating art all over this city.  The semi-retired wealthy artists might not notice us, or pay any attention to our low-budget ventures but we’re still here.

If young artists heed the warnings and no new blood comes in, the doomsayers will kill the very thing they claim to cherish.   If we want to maintain this cities artistic credibility then we have to stay and fight.  The warnings to stay away from Gotham are nothing new.  Nearly twenty years ago, more than one professor warned – NYC is dead, don’t bother. Yet I’ve survived for thirteen years and I make my living creating art.

We can romanticize the past but there were many artists who crashed and burned in the 70’s and 80’s. NYC has never been an incubator with warm and fuzzy walls that nurtured anyone.  It’s a city that says from the moment you land here – show me something.  Show me why I should give a damn about what you do.

We’re in trouble, but if we tell the next generation to not bother, we expedite our demise.  Any artist who looks the rates of success wouldn’t bother anyway.  When have the arts been a practical career choice for anyone?  We don’t do it for outward gains, we create because we have to create, we must create and there is no better place than a city overflowing with artists.  I would say to young artists – New York might not be for you, but if you really want to push yourself and live among a bunch of like-minded freaks then take the leap. You probably won’t live in Manhattan, and you’ll most likely be poor, but you won’t have watch your dreams die in a small town in Kansas.  If you are going to burn out you might as well dream big.

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Happy New Year and Thank You!

I started this blog about a year ago.  I named it after myself because some fellow comedians told me that I should have a blog.   I didn’t think to give it any other name other than my own.  It had absolutely no focus whatsoever, I actually felt silly posting anything.  Then while I was in therapy for my depression my Italian therapist left for a vacation and like a typical European her trip lasted about five weeks.  She told me to write out my issues and problems while she was gone, she didn’t tell me to broadcast my struggles publicly on a blog.   I started blogging mainly about my dating mishaps and to my surprise this blog slowly became popular.  I was always shocked when total strangers were commenting on posts, and even more floored when I found people were searching for things like

“Juliet Jeske Dating Blog”

Then on the advice of another blogger Carolyn Castiglia, I re-wrote and submitted my most popular post to the Huffington Post.  The post blew up all over the internet and has changed my life and this blog.   On it’s most popular day I had 492 readers, and since then I have anywhere from 20 to 300 readers in a given day.  I am not sure why I have sudden peaks in readers but this blog never fails to surprise me.  Since I started this blog, it has been read a total of 15,648 times.

I just wanted to thank all of my regular readers.  I never really considered myself a writer.  I wrote this blog because it helped me exorcise the demons in my head and work out the frustrations about dating after a divorce.   I don’t know if I will continue to write articles that will keep you guys entertained and interested, but I will do my best to keep it going.  I am going to go through some of my older blog posts to re-work some of my older entries.  I might re-post some of them and feature them on Facebook or twitter, my apologizes if you have already read them.

I will add that one of the amazing things about this whole experience is that it has given me hope.  And I didn’t have a lot of hope when my life fell apart 2 1/2 years ago.  And the amazing thing about hope is that even though I haven’t made a dime off of any of this success yet, the feedback and motivation that I have gotten from the online community has completely changed my life.  I want to get up in the morning now.   I no longer see my future as a black cloud of nothingness but as shifting shades of gray with light peeking out at me through the cracks.  I may not get a book deal and even if I do, my book may not make money.  I am fully aware of the realities and difficulties of the publishing industry so I have very realistic expectations.  But the support of my regular readers and the feedback of so many strangers in the virtual world have transformed me.  I have more faith in myself now than I think I have ever had in my entire life, and it was all due to the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  Funny how life works isn’t it?

May we all have a wonderful and productive 2012.  And thank you again, your support means the world to me! 🙂

Juliet Jeske


Weekend Sunrise Interview – Dating After Divorce in a City of Sluts

Below is a clip from an interview I did on Morning Sunrise, Australia‘s #1 Breakfast talk show.  It is their equivalent of the Today Show or so I am told.  They interviewed me based on my Huffington Blog post “Dating After Divorce in a City of Sluts”

The link to the article is here.  It was ridiculously popular having something like 7,000 people “like” it on Facebook and 1400 comments.  I am an unknown, unsigned comedian so the whole thing has been mind-blowing.

So they didn’t tell me beforehand that they were going to even mention my ex-husband’s homosexuality.  That was a complete shock to me, they also veered from the script.  I have dealt with the press before so I wasn’t really shocked by that.  The saddest thing is that the interviewer actually says

“In your book”

When in reality it was just one article, no book.  Although I am currently trying to make that happen.  I have no idea how to do it, but I am looking into it.  If I end up getting published you know I am telling everyone on the planet.  🙂

My working title for my book is “Dating in a City of Sluts” or something like that.  I never thought I would write a book in a million years but since I have gotten so much overwhelming positive feedback to go for it, I thought I would give a shot!

City of Sluts the Aftermath

So this whole thing has been insane. If you haven’t yet read the original blog post here is the link.

I had been writing this blog for a while and it was slowly but surely becoming more and more popular. On the advice of a friend, I decided to take my most popular post and submit it to the divorce section of the Huffington Post. I had been published numerous times in the comedy section but always in the form of satire videos. This was my first attempt at getting anything I had written published online or elsewhere.

I had no idea of the insane amount of popularity the post would generate. I didn’t know the editor beforehand, and she took a couple of days to get back to me. She thought the article was well written and she liked my voice, so she decided to run it as the lead story for labor day weekend. I don’t think either one of us had any idea that it would cause such a fervor.

Most of the feedback that I have gotten has been positive, and my twitter account went from about 260 followers to over 650 in a matter of a couple of days and is still climbing. The article got picked up by a number of news sources on the internet and the readers kept rising. Right now the story has been favorited almost 5,000 times on Facebook and has over a thousand comments. I have received personal email, subscribers to this blog, fans added to my youtube account, and fans added to my facebook account.

The criticism has been so diverse I have to break it down in sections. I find it stunning that so many people had such different reactions to the piece.

  • I hate men
  • I hate women
  • I hate sex
  • I am misrepresenting polyamorous people – I honestly don’t know much about the lifestyle but I really don’t have a problem with people who are openly polyamorous 
  • I should move to another city
  • Several people have told me they have the exact same problem in their city
  • I am somehow Christian or pro-Christian – I am staunchly non-religious and identify as agnostic
  • I am fat or unattractive – I am 5’7″ and a size 4, I am nowhere near fat, unattractive is in the eye of the beholder I guess but I am not even close to being overweight.
  • I should have stayed married – Well my husband was gay so that wasn’t going to happen
  • I was somehow spoiled by my ex-husband and now I am bitter – that is so far off the mark it isn’t funny.
  • I am whiny and negative – Well I guess but if it was an article that just stated how happy I was I doubt anyone would have read it.
  • I have had numerous people give me dating advice – some good, some crazy
  • I need to lower my standards and date older men, younger men, or less attractive men
  • I have also had several men ask me out, or want to start a correspondence with me online
  • I should love myself more
  • I am attracting the wrong kind of men because of something I am doing
  • I deserve to be alone because I am a bitch
  • But I have gotten a tremendous amount of people saying they are going through the exact same thing, and that they completely agree with me!!!!!!!

I obviously struck a nerve or it wouldn’t have caused so many people to respond.  My general response to anyone who gets seriously worked up over this article or anything else that I write is this…

Write your own blog and try to submit it somewhere and see what happens.

I only glance through the comment section as there is no way I could or would want to read all of them, so it is honestly wasted energy on anyone making a comment.  But I do find it hysterical how people literally project their own agenda on to a fairly straight forward article.

I basically say, I don’t like feeling pressured to have sex with  a virtual stranger, and that if people like that behavior and it works for them then great!  I also point out that both men and women and people of all sexual orientations engage in promiscuous behavior.   I never say my way is better than another choice, nor do I tell people how to live.  But that doesn’t stop the comments.

So thank you to all of the people who have supported the article, and to my detractors well there is no such thing as bad publicity so keep it up!  HA!!! 🙂  Oh and if anyone knows of any PAID writing assignments send them my way!  HA!!!  I am an unpaid blogger for the Huffington Post, I am not a reporter, I am not a published author.  I make very little money as a performer, but I do perform all over New York city.  Since leaving my husband my income has been devastated as I used to work with him, so I am just looking for a place to land.  Will write for food!  HA! 🙂