Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Presentation tonight: Cultural drivers | National Building Museum

6:30 - 8:00 PM (SOLD OUT, but standby might be available)
National Building Museum
Washington, DC

Municipalities and non-profits around the world construct museums, theaters, libraries, parks, and cultural districts with the hopes of encouraging investment in underdeveloped urban areas, improving the quality of life for residents, and attracting tourist dollars.

In this first program of the Culture as Catalyst: Past, Present, Future series, panelists from across the U.S. share how their cultural facilities and civic spaces respond to the needs of the community.

• Mary Margaret Jones, senior principal, Hargreaves Associates
• Ed Lebow, director of public art, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture
• Victoria Rogers, executive vice president, New World Symphony, Miami
• G. Martin Moeller, Jr., senior curator, National Building Museum (moderator)


Other lectures in the series:
• Cultural Investments: Economic Impact of the Arts, March 14

• Industry to Art: Revitalizing Cities through Culture, April 10

Also see my piece on this general topic, "Arts, artistic production, and culture districts revisited."

I have been intending to write about/am in the midst of an e-conversation on arts and "revitalization" and I wrote...

1. It's all about the rents. The cities that are "revitalizing" even on a relative basis, rents are increasing. It's cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh where prices will remain relatively speaking, permanently low (because for all intents and purposes they are permanently weak markets in that they have a huge supply of underutilized property that can't be absorbed through normal market-based means). In strong markets, what's needed are artist-run community development corporations to permanently own the properties. Otherwise they will be priced out eventually.

In one of the presentations that I will be writing about from the Philly conference, it was by a guy from a CDC in Cleveland, and how an artist bought and restored a ballroom/club (Beachland Ballroom) and how this is leading to more artists locating in that area, and more artists buying properties, in part through assistance from that CDC. But at the same time, Cleveland (like Balt. or Philly) is so big and the amount of population growth miniscule (for the region) so there never will be much in the way of eventual competition for the space.

2.  It's all about the location.  You probably know about the Paducah program too. The thing about it, Paducah proper won't ever have big competition for property owned by artists. But the reason it works is that Paducah, Kentucky is located on an Interstate Highway and is within one day driving distance from many big midwestern cities that are big on the art fair circuit (e.g., Ann Arbor, Michigan and Louisville, Kentucky have two of the country's most successful art fairs in terms of sales by artists). So while seemingly Paducah is off the beaten track, for the purposes of art fair people, not so.

3.  Arts as production, artists as businesspeople. There was also a good presentation that I will be writing about on a storefront artist project in New Haven, which is focused on developing the business capacity of the artists, and helping them get spaces. It's not just temporary urbanism, but leveraging underutilized spaces to develop artist-owned businesses which further absorbs otherwise vacant space.

Just out of curiosity, what do you think of ArtSpace (the housing people)?

Similarly, I've been meaning to write about the artist spaces at Brookland's Monroe Street Market project. While I think it's a cool program--providing about 30 spaces at low rents, about $15/s.f.--it has flaws because it is set up by the developer in conjunction with Cultural Development Corporation without the benefit of having been developed as an implementation element of a broader ranged and complete arts and culture plan for the area. So there are many many gaps.

4. My discussant wrote back, in response to my ArtSpace question:

Artist work/live space is a failed policy, a chance for developers to avoid housing poor people by substituting the more picturesque voluntary poor, artists. It's cynical in practice since the income required far exceeds the average income of artists. There's no reason artists need to work where they live, but they do need work space. Studio space, particularly for real-life performing artists and sculptors, can never make a profit, even when shared, so it must be underwritten. DC has probably missed the window of opportunity for this, at least until the next real estate crash.

5. Note that these are the kinds of issues that make me somewhat critical of the NEA Creative Placemaking Initiative. It's a fine line between using artists as gloss to raise interest in an otherwise underinvested area, as a property value improvement strategy and building the economic capacity of artists and artists as property owners.

That's why my paper (linked to above) says that artists and their artistic disciplines need to develop their own plans, because they can't expect their interests, especially long term, to be fully represented otherwise.

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