How artists can more formally help vitalize cities
We know there are studies that relate artists to economic impact, attracting other creatives in science, engineering and high tech that create jobs. However, how can a city more formally utilize their talent, and how can artists more formally participate to more effectively enhance their impact?
In a Smart City Radio interview, Ann Daly of Ann Daly Arts Consulting provides some answers with a strategic vision.
She states while it may be difficult to account for artists’ economic impact on an individual level, it can be done in other areas, such as building communities, raising the dialogue in social issues, improving education, helping an area think about its identity, and remembering its heritage. It’s probably no coincidence that she’s based in Austin, a city that has become a destination for creatives despite a less than creative, walkable urban fabric like say, Manhattan or San Francisco.
Her starting point is that the arts as we knew it – non-interactive exhibits and performances – is losing a tremendous amount of the emerging populations’ interest in the wake of the digital economy, and this is evident in the lack of traditional arts classes and arts funding.
Her two main recommendations however, seem to be quite exciting for the future of artists, as it is already happening:
1. “Rethink the notion of just giving out grants to individuals, [but rather] to building infrastructure.” She adds that investments should help artists develop skills, have work space, living space.
2. Then, establish a plan to integrate arts and culture, finding ways of involving artists in improving education, the environment, housing, transportation and social issues, contributing to city and regional creative economic development programs. “Artists can’t solve the problems, but they’re absolutely necessary to solving them.” There aren’t many better examples of this in action than Austin’s Keep Austin Weird, Live Music Capital of the World and SXSW music festival creative/economic institutions.
Artists are an amazing resource and often too under utilized by communities to participate in revitalization.
We began a program called Phantom Galleries in 2001. The objective was to fill the numerous vacant storefronts in San Jose’s downtown core with interesting, colorful exhibits by local artists. It’s a win/win in terms of the pedestrian experience, the exposure for the artists, and it actually deters graffiti and draws good attention to the space by potential tenants.