In 1985 I moved into one of the artist studios on top of Carnegie Hall to work as a photographer. As a tenant with unlimited access to this little known world, I began to film my neighbors, a rapidly diminishing community of artists whose lives intersected with decades of artistic history.
During this time, the Carnegie Hall Corporation began to systematically evict them, and demolish the 160 unique 19th century studio spaces. The film follows the protracted battle by the tenants to preserve their community and the rich heritage of the studios.
Tragically, this documentary is the only film record of the extraordinary studios, and the last denizens of a community that has inhabited them for over a century. Conceived by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the studios offered affordable spaces for artists to work and live, and were specifically designed for actors, painters, singers, and musicians with north-facing skylights, sprung wood floors, and soundproof walls.
The studios’ significance to 20th Century culture cannot be overstated, as generations of legendary performers and artists lived and worked in them including Isadora Duncan, Marlon Brando, Barnett Newman, Agnes deMille, Marilyn Monroe, Leonard Bernstein, Ruth Gordon, Mark Twain, Martha Graham, Paddy Chayefsky, Robert Redford and Lee Strasberg.
– Josef ‘Birdman’ Astor