The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson



Kevin Blythe Sampson How to make it as an artist in New York, Crain's new York Business

The Survivor
The second floor of the Newark apartment that Kevin Sampson, 61, shares with his 34-year-old son is crammed with the intricate, inventive sculptures ­created by the former Scotch Plains, N.J., cop and self-taught artist.
He’s represented by the Calvin Morris Gallery in Chelsea and sells his works for $5,000 to $20,000 apiece. Sampson says he’s lucky if he makes $10,000 a year from art. His $25,000 early-retirement pension pays the rent, and a teaching-artist position at the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Gallery pays for his food.
Rent costs Sampson $1,100 a month, which is cheaper than it could be, but the landlord—who runs a window-making shop around the corner where Sampson works when he’s hard up for cash—“protects me,” Sampson said.
He is considered the leader of a small group of older artists in Newark trying to hang on as an influx of younger artists flee the high prices of Manhattan and Brooklyn, in turn driving up rents in New Jersey’s biggest city.
“Newark is a mess,” he said. “We need new people, but I want to make sure that the artists who stayed here when nobody wanted Newark don’t get lost in the shuffle—that our legacy continues. I’m like the ringleader, raising hell.”