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Art in the Big Apple:  Navigating NYC as an Artist

Britt Sodersjerna

Taking the leap from high school to college was a major challenge for me, especially going from a town of twenty thousand to a city of, give or take, eight and a half million people. It took me a long time to adjust to life in NYC, because frankly, I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into. I was a lot less prepared to deal with the constant bustle of city life and the endless number of people than I thought I was, and it took me a while to realize that these experiences were actually a really great advantage that I never would have expected back at home. Living in “the city” has given me opportunities that I would never have imagined living in small town Massachusetts.

During my first year at Pratt Institute, I learned that the best way to absorb NYC is to use as many of your assets as you can. There is always something going on in the city, from festivals to art shows, to more permanent attractions like public art and the overwhelming number of art museums. The city is bursting at the seams with valuable experiences and great activities that can help inspire you to be an even better artist.


Get started by prioritizing parts of the city that were not readily available to you before you were in NYC. In my case, this was the endless number of art museums. Go to the museums that have a high turnover of exhibitions, like the New Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as you have a limited amount of time to experience the exhibits. These two museums focus on  contemporary artwork, and it is really great to see what current successful artists have created. When it comes to museums with larger permanent exhibitions that focus on historical artworks, you will always have lots of time to see those artworks, and plenty of time to go back.

Last Semester, my drawing teacher brought our class to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for a unique experience. We were there to draw the marble sculptures in the Greek and Roman art, and the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts wings. Drawing from the sculptures was particularly rewarding- it was like having the most perfectly still models you could ever imagine! While the style of these sculptures are extremely idealized, I would highly recommend this activity to anyone who is interested in learning to draw the human figure.

Britt Sodersjerna

And that’s just the museums! My art history class brought me to many more sites, including The Frick Collection, The Brooklyn Bridge, and The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Sites that are not even art museums can inspire you just as much.  Even just walking down a random street in NYC, you’ll get to see gorgeous architecture, including bridges, churches, high rises, old brownstones, the list goes on. Just taking a walk down several blocks and absorbing the world around you can really be a great inspiration for your work, especially if you have an interest in illustration or architecture.

Lastly, I found that I could easily find inspiration from the people I walked past every day. It is good to carry a sketchbook with you at all times, whether it is for some quick sketching or just to jot down some ideas. I found myself several times last semester, usually when I was waiting for a class to start, or waiting for a friend somewhere, sitting down and drawing the people around me. Whether it was people I saw relaxing on the grass in the parks, people waiting for the subway, or even a family eating a meal. When you stop to look, there really are lots activities people are doing all around you  that will keep them still long enough for you to complete a quick sketch. Besides, no one can draw from life too much!


New York City truly is an amazing place to develop as an artist. Yet I feel like I have just skimmed the surface, there is so much more to experience here and I urge you to come and find it yourselves. I’ve realized that the opportunities for inspiration here are absolutely infinite.

There is something for every artist here in New York City!

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