Longevity’s Promise in Lost Bohemia

Part of Hollywood’s annual Academy Awards show is the “remembrance of those we lost” segment, where in a few moments of nostalgia, a sliding photo gallery commemorates those familiar greats of the film arts who died over the last year. Otherwise, it’s a night of momentary glitz that goes on way too long.

But for me this year the best story of remembrance for artists came after the Oscars in a random late night viewing of a film Lost Bohemia – a 2010 documentary about the last days of the Carnegie Hall Artists Studios in NYC and how the remaining artists were evicted during their last fight with the Carnegie Hall Corporation’s plan to overhaul the premises.

It’s a wistful story about longevity’s promise; how a building dating back to the 1890’s became an early 21st century spectral tower – at once a home and a place of work for singers, dancers, writers and photographers from Isadora Duncan to Norman Mailer and hundreds of others of more recent times.

In November 2013, Editta Sherman, who lived the longest in the studios, died at age 101. With her went the legend. However thanks to film maker Josef Birdman Astor, Lost Bohemia is a double testimonial to the longevity of a unique concept and the continuity of fulfilling an artist life.

Perhaps Lost Bohemia is a bitter sweet example; but is there not a lesson here about the link between creativity and self expression, and making a good kick at  the promise of longevity?.


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