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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Seattle Times series on impact of the city's upscaling of wealth on the arts

The marquee painting for “Everything You Love Turns Into a Condo,” an art installation by Seattle street artist Jazz Mom and friends housed in a vacant Capitol Hill office. (Brendan Kiley/The Seattle Times)

-- "How Seattle’s growing pains are impacting the arts scene"
-- "Seattle visual artists paint an ambivalent picture of the future — but are determined to survive"
-- "Seattle dance community takes leap of faith amid city’s changes"
-- "Seattle live-music clubs feel the burn from red-hot real-estate market"
-- "Rent hikes, transit issues take center stage for Seattle theater scene"
-- "Seattle classical-music, opera groups shake off dust to capture new audiences"
-- "Seattle growth brings hits, misses for comedy clubs"

I will say that this reporting reiterates my point that artistic disciplines need:

-- to have plans ("Arts, culture districts, and revitalization") which distinguish between arts as consumption ("Arts-based revitalization, community building, network strengthening, commodification, and Artomatic), arts as presentation, and arts as production;
-- which include facilities elements that lay out and implement mechanisms for buying and holding property ("BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building") for permanent arts use;
-- funding mechanisms ("A way for a metropolitan area to support arts institutions based in the center city")
-- address higher education matters ("Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?")
-- and include a media and communications element, including the support of critics, calendars, and reporting in print and broadcast media, and production ("Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making") [... I keep thinking I've written about the broader point in terms of the arts but I haven't, the writings have been more focused on community media and civic engagement]

Superstrong real estate markets vs. strong real estate markets vs. weak real estate markets.  The other thing that's important to acknowledge is that the strength of real estate markets makes a huge difference on the ability of social and public uses to maintain access and pay for and "compete" for space.

In a weak real estate market like Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Detroit, it will take many years before "higher value" real estate uses can crowd out arts uses.  Of course, in cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, they already have arts-based community and cultural development corporations that buy, develop, and hold property.

In an average strong real estate market, like Chicago, it's more difficult, but not impossible for artists to find lower cost housing, and arts organizations and DIYers to find and hold spaces--partly it's because a city like Chicago is big and there is a large inventory of available housing and commercial buildings both.

It's the superstrong real estate markets like Boston,  Los Angeles, West Los Angeles County, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC that deal with this at a whole other level.  Limited property inventory, high demand for both residential and commercial property, and high cost of housing and space make it hard for lower income earning artists and arts organizations to compete.

Without extranormal mechanisms to acquire and hold property, it's very difficult for arts organizations, especially new organizations or those organizations addressing segments of the arts sector that are more controversial, new and/or innovative, or less popular by comparison to traditional museums and fine arts and performing arts institutions, to get and hold space, raise money, etc.

This of course is true at all rungs on the tier, for example the near death of Baltimore Clayworks ("Baltimore Clayworks to reopen with new board, old debt," Baltimore Sun), the failure of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the closure of opera companies, theater groups, and orchestras in response to the 2008 recession, etc., but is heightened in the superstrong real estate markets.

Culture Crash by Scott Timberg.  I haven't read this book (it's in my pile) but the major  points is that digital-economic changes in various  sectors (e.g., the loss of bookstores, record shops, newspapers, etc.) makes it that much harder for artists to find work.

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