Sunday, June 10, 2012

National Goverors Association Presents New Engines of Growth: Part 4, Catalyzing Community Revitilization

This is the fourth in a series of posts discussing a study released in May 2012 by the National Governors Association titled "New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture and Design".

The report makes the argument that arts, culture, and design can assist states with economic growth because they can:

1. Provide a fast-growth, dynamic industry cluster
2. Help mature industries become more competitive
3. Provide the critical ingredients for innovative places
4. Catalyze community revitalization; and
5. Deliver a better-prepared workforce.

My first post discussed The Industry Cluster, and I showed how the newly formed networking group The Ashland Arts Alliance serves to solve many of the issues raised in forming and accelerating the growth of a creative industry cluster.

My second post covered how creativity can help mature industries become more competitive through creative marketing, bolstering tourism, and innovative manufacturing.

The third post talked about:
  • Launching cultural districts and arts enterprise zones.
  • Creating spaces for artists and other creative talent to cluster, interact, and thrive.
  • Integrating arts, culture, and design into innovation hubs that encourage collaboration.
So now lets talk about number four: Catalyzing community revitalization. The chapter begins:

All over the country, states and cities are scrambling to find ways to reinvent and revitalize communities and neighborhoods. The arts, culture, and design sector can be a catalyst to revive older commercial districts and neighborhoods and can be part of a state strategy to reclaim abandoned investments in physical infrastructure and communities.

As an example, the study cites Austin Texas:

Because creative people like to be around other creative people, even if they are in different businesses, Austin, Texas, is one of the great economic success stories in the United States in the last 30 years. There is no question that the region made great strategic moves and creatively exploited its assets, especially the University of Texas, in building new pillars of economic prosperity. But it is also true that Austin’s flourishing music scene and its funky cultural attitudes—best summed up in the local slogan “Keep Austin Weird”—were key ingredients as well.

Now I'm not familiar with the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan. A quick Wikipedia search yields:

Austin is the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world" and the people of Austin reflect a friendly, accepting culture of artistic and individual expression that maintains the city as a vibrant and eclectic creative center and haven for anLGBT community, intellectual community, community of naturalists and environmentalists, and for subcultures and people(s) who are not mainstream. In a mostly conservative Texas, Austin is "Weird" because of that and because it continues to be liberal and progressive politically, socially, in culture, in the arts and in music, among other things. "Keep Austin Weird" moves beyond a mere slogan, to reflect the dynamics that encompass Austin.

I like this. It reminds my of my welcoming blurb for the Ashland Arts Alliance:

This is a group for creatives in all arts disciplines in the Ashland, Virginia area to find each other for potential collaboration. I believe that Ashland has a lot of "arts" professionals and hobbyists who live under the radar, and are looking for significant change in attitudes about arts both locally and nationally.

This is a call out not only to fine artists who might think that the area is not ready for the subject matter that they deal with, but also for musicians, dancers, videographers, photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers, illustrators, stylists, recording artists and anyone else that considers themselves to be "artists".

Lowbrow, body art,street art, spoken word, hoopers and spinners, and any area of alternative. Diversity is a word being bandied around a lot lately. Lets see some real diversity in Ashland. I know its there... it is time to be seen. All economic levels, all lifestyle choices.

Here's a photo of some of our members from a story in Richmond's Style Weekly magazine:

Nicole Randall (front), Heather Addley, and Courtney Ford, part of The Clockworks Collective, and members of the Ashland Arts Alliance

It illustrates that if you want to have a successful arts and culture scene, the more open and welcoming it is to the people who dedicated their lives to creating art, the more successful you will be. And yes, we are often considered "weird. See my post on Xenophobia

Part 2 of the chapter speaks to restoring distressed communities and reclaiming abandoned spaces, and the trend for artists to be the pioneers in such efforts. The study reads:

Taking heed of this trend, in April 2011 the Ford Foundation started a $100 million program to develop artists’ spaces across the country. In announcing the program, Luis Ubinas, the foundation president, cited the economic potential of artist communities in the founda- tion’s decision to commit such a large sum:

“We...believe that this investment in arts infrastructure will advance the well-being of communities because artists and art spaces can play a significant role in boosting local economies.”

States and cities are propelling this new economic vitality as well as using historic preservation and artist relocation programs, for example, in catalytic roles.

Read that again: "artist relocation programs". As I keep saying, the competition to acquire artists is rising. Not just artists, but artists who are leaders. Catalysts. I'll go ahead and be self indulgent, and point out that the title I gave myself as founder of the Ashland Arts Alliance is "Catalyst". This was before I read or was aware of the report. I'm starting to think perhaps I should be shopping around, looking for the best opportunities in the country for my particular set of talents. The incentives are rising.

The study points out the city of Paducah, Kentucky:

The Paducah, Kentucky, Artist Relocation Program was started in August 2000 as a way to reduce urban blight, preserve historic buildings, and bring artists in particular to the downtown area of LowerTown, the city’s oldest neighborhood. Incentives offered to artists and others include 100-percent financing for the purchase and rehabilitation of an existing structure or the building of a new structure; free lots for new construction, as available; assistance in paying professional fees; and national marketing exposure as a part of the LowerTown Arts District. In the first year, eight artists moved to LowerTown. In the second year, the number increased to around 20. In 2010, more than 100 artists lived and worked in the neighborhood.

This is sort of like giving artists 40 acres and a mule.

A study conducted by Americans for the Arts in 2009 found that Paducah’s arts scene brought in $27.8 million in 2007

The final part of the chapter addresses improving livability and quality of life through creative spaces:

The question of how to foster high-quality places is one of the most important in economic development today. By providing amenities, connectivity, and sense of place, public art and well-designed public spaces can be part of the answer. They contribute to the visual landscape and character of a state or city. They help transform transportation corridors and waterfronts into welcoming places for people to live, work, play, and gather as a community.

As an example, it cites percent-for-art programs, and this interesting bit about Vermont:

In Vermont, artists, community members, and engineers are working to integrate artistic enhancements into the redevelopment of a portion of U.S. Highway Route 2 through the village of Danville in a way that combines state and local efforts. The Danville Transportation Enhancement Project brings together the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Agency of Transportation in a first-time partnership to work with the town. Much of Route 2 throughout Vermont has already been widened and better designed, but the Danville section of the highway remains to be completed. Route 2 is essentially the community’s main street, as it runs through the town center connecting the school, general store, and several churches. The goal of the project is to upgrade road conditions through the town to meet Federal Highway System requirements, while enhancing the feel of a small, close-knit, rural community and pre- serving a pedestrian environment. With broad public, private, and multiagency support, the Danville project provides a template to help small communities deal with quality-of-life issues as they relate to the demands of infrastructure.

I'll conclude this series with part 5, Delivering a Better Prepared Workforce. The chapter speaks to creative education, which has been a recurring topic on this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment