And I’m also an Artist. The gig economy is nothing new.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Years ago I was working as a Project Manager for a high end interior design firm in New York’s prestigious Upper East Side. My work had me traveling the east coast primarily Park Ave. penthouses, Greenwich Connecticut’s sprawling mansions and out to Hamptons summertime beach retreats. Our firm was commissioned to design and build interiors and landscapes for A-list celebrities and industry tycoons.

We designed and built spaces with wood and stones of Provenance often removed from European castles and chateaus. Artisans would craft picturesque environments that often landed on the front cover of prestigious publications such as Architectural Digest and Better Homes and Gardens.

Money was never an object nor deemed quite as important as the design aesthetics and execution of the grandest vision. The team of designers, decorators and architects tirelessly sketching, procuring and ultimately having installed the finest materials you could buy. The experience of creativity mixed with extreme wealth permanently changed my perspective on design and execution as we were always pushing the envelope of practicality.

However within the wealthiest of decadent environments I had a secret. I had my own business I was running in the evenings. Setup in a rundown tenement in the then less than prestigious Lower East Side of Manhattan my business partner and I lived and ran an Art Gallery/ custom wood shop in a storefront on Broome Street. Our space on a block of sweatshops, knockoff handbags and fish mongers. Our building full of inhabitants of questionable citizenship mixed with artists and creatives. A perfect enclave of bohemians and people that would never call the cops on us.

Our gallery and shop space was adjacent to the 5 story tenements common corridor where all of the buildings inhabitants had to pass. The gallery originally an illegal squat became official when Billie my partner and friend signed the lease obligating him to pay a rent he could never afford. We became the buildings concierge service as we were generally the first stop the buildings artists would report the evenings festivities.

We would run around New York’s streets hittings gallery openings, poetry readings and live music venues. Sculpture artists friends would invite us to iron pours in back alleyways melting reclaimed cast iron in centries old designed furnaces into original and unique works of art. Street trash became art as we would drop off cab doors and lockers to a local painter know to repurpose them into works of art. Once illegal squats had been converted into artist collectives in which you could view Tesla Coils firing bolts of electrical charge while listening to noise performances.

It was commonplace when having conversations with waiters, bouncers and cab drivers to find out they were actually writers, actors, musicians and photographers. most everyone we came into contact with had another gig moonlighting or daylights a false facade hoping to achieve greatness.

Mornings I’d dress in Versace and English bench-made shoes as I stepped over putrid fish guts and vomit of the gritty LES streets heading to my “sucker-job” as my partner Billie called it. My mind was contstantly racing as I absorbed visual and creative stimulations from the glitz and glamour of Madison or 5th Ave. planning my evenings projects.

Our shop in the less than perfect cellar space made material handling and finishing next to impossible as we would spray lacquers in the common air shaft often dodging spit and cigarette butts careless falling from above. We would build furniture, picture frames and cabinetry for soon to be gentrified LES that rapidly was being redeveloped into Wine Bars, Cupcake Shops and High End residential. Buildings once collaborative art spaces overtaken often in hostile takeovers.

I’ve built exhibits for musuems and trade shows, ran live sound humping W bins and Crown Powerbase amps up and down slippery stairs of spilt beer. Recorded musicians in studios, written my first book, tended to horses, bailed hay, built custom furniture and cabinetry, painted on canvas, built racecars and monster trucks, written films…. and the list goes on.

Currently I’m a daytime Director of Construction working in adaptive reuse of old industrialized buildings. My night gig is sound recording and post production sound for film, experiental design for kiosks and interactive display and product design and branding for a startup.

You may think of me as a woodworker or sound engineer but I just say I’m an artist. Working for almost 30 years in the gig economy as a creative, everyday I awaken with a charge as my mind and body race to the next quest of what to create and how.

Somewhere I have a resume that can be used to get a “sucker job” at a prestigious Interior Design firm, however my body of creative works is my actual resume which you shouldn’t write about but actually consume. Daily my phone rings and my email bings with requests from other creatives hoping to collaborate and create with me. And daily I take on new and enriching gigs to keep my creative spark alive.

As of late I’m asking myself why…. why the gigs and why create? Because I’m an artist and have always worked in the gig economy.

Author: mtcwriter

Michael Competielle is a Creative Designer specializing in Sound, Brand and Experiential Design.

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