Conversation, Writing

The Westbeth retirement community

In The Villager, Bonnie Rosenstock writes about the Westbeth, the largest live/work facility for artists in the world, located in the far western edge of Greenwich Village in New York.

“The original supposition of Westbeth was that young, starving artists would come here, become successful within five years and leave. Claire Rosenfeld, a self-described ‘career artist’ in her 60s who has been living in Westbeth since 1982, joked. ‘Anyone who says he lives off his art has a trust fund.’

“Printmaker Christina Maile, now 63, recalls that 1970s fantasy very vividly. ‘Yeah, that sounded about right, five years,’ she said. ‘We were all about the same age moving in, and there was a general air of optimism. But then life intruded, we started families, or had more hardship than we thought. Artists need security where they are, even if they talk a great game. Like a scuba diver, you need something to help you breathe,’ she said.

Jack Dowling, the visual arts chair-person of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council and director of the Westbeth art gallery for the past 10 years, also remembers that pie-in-the-sky notion. He is 77 years old, a painter, writer and printmaker. When he moved here from Soho 30 years ago, it was the first time he had a real bathroom. He wonders where artists can go now for affordable living and working space.” Read more.


  1. Sharon, thanks for posting this article. I recently finished a biography of Diane Arbus and have been meaning to read up on the Westbeth, so this is great.

  2. I remember visiting there a few times. An audition perhaps. I also remember, though I was not a part of that group, having the same optimism, this idea that in a few years, you would have made it as an artist. Whenever I hear the various expectations of the young, I try to remember that. We had it. It’s a kind of Hope.

  3. Thanks for posting my article.
    Bonnie Rosenstock

  4. i lived in westbeth in the 1970’s abd early 80’s. i loved it.i payed to park my old beat up car on the river ( pier )where it housed the homeless at times. worked as an illustrator through some lean years. then husband and i moved to the delaware river town in new jersey and had a kid. still miss westbeth, west village and nyc. still making art . thank you westbeth.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *