Gotta have arts
The current issue of the Washington City Paper has two excellent articles on local arts issues.
The first, "How Not to Screw up the Howard Theatre: The restored historic music house could end up a big success—if it follows these steps," discusses the soon-to-reopen Howard Theatre, and how to make it be successful as opposed to a failure, which is the status of the city-owned Lincoln Theatre down the street. The piece lists six points for success:
3. Construct a flexible space. [I would have phrased this differently, "construct a flexible space to support multiple and simultaneous revenue streams"]
The second piece is "The Trouble With Local: Efforts like Listen Local First want to extend the buy-local ethos to culture. But helping artists is a little more complicated." It makes the point that the issue of "supporting local arts and artists" isn't about being parochial and supporting "local" artists because they are local, but in providing the right kinds of support and infrastructure so that local artists can be successful locally. From the article:
But in consuming culture, I’ve never felt “local” to be an inherent plus. Not exactly. What matters, or ought to matter, is whether something is interesting, forward-thinking, vibrant—and mostly importantly, good. ...
Think Local First and similar campaigns around the country rely on two assumptions: that you can convince consumers they should take pride in shopping local, and that stores selling locally made goods can channel consumer goodwill into more business. ...
But asking listeners to directly care about a wide swath of music whose only common denominator is geography is the wrong paradigm for Listen Local First’s efforts—or any booster’s. You can’t ask people to take a blanket stance of support for something whose worth is subjective. Instead, you can ask them to support the kind of conditions—say, space for artists to work, fair booking practices—that make D.C. a place where artists want to live, something everyone should want. Artists in D.C. need a hand, not a nonjudgemental megaphone. Make artists want to live here, and you’ll find locals who’ll listen.
This is my sense about "local first" movements generally. I have no problem with supporting locally owned businesses over chains. Providing the right kinds of conditions to support local business and excellence by local businesses is another issue entirely. But I won't reflexively support poorly run businesses just because they are locally owned.
-- Listen Local First
-- Seattle City of Music: A vision for the future of music in Seattle (plan)
-- blog entry, "Planning your community's night time attractions in terms of music"