"Arts district planning" in Arlington County | Many communities don't know the difference between arts as production and arts as consumption
Photo by Andrew Beaujon, Washingtonian Magazine.
The Washington Post has a "funny" story, "Once the ‘Abbey Road’ of D.C.’s punk scene, it’s being bulldozed for a government-sanctioned arts district," on how the Green Valley community in Arlington County, Virginia's desire for the creation of an "arts and industrial district," in part spurred by the existence of the Inner Ear Studio as an anchor, is leading to the demise of the studio.
Inner Ear has been key to the development and maintenance of the DC area's punk rock scene and the creation and existence of the Dischord Records label. From the article:
For the neighbors who first pushed for an arts district, it’s a cruel consequence of their idea — particularly because they wanted to complement, not end, Zientara’s longtime presence on South Oakland Street.
“Losing a small, yet significant, arts-related business is antithetical to this vision,” Robin Stombler, acting president of the Green Valley Civic Association, wrote in a letter about Inner Ear to county lawmakers earlier this year.
It's funny because it's a backwards way to support the "expansion" of an arts district.
I say expansion because usually the designation of an arts district initiative usually follows the ground up development of a nascent district where a variety of artists and disciplines coalesce and develop visible critical mass in part attracted by low rents and workable buildings ("BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building").
So when you move to a formal initiative, FIRST you inventory your assets, physical like facilities, and tangible and intangible, in people, businesses, and organizations.
It doesn't seem as if Arlington has done this, if their first act is to buy "a building" but not for it as an existing space, but merely for the land value, and in the process, eradicate a leading asset in the nascent arts district.
Buying buildings to tear them down and evict arts uses is the opposite of what you want to do.
Arts as production versus arts as consumption. FWIW, my initial 2009 entry on this topic, "Arts, culture districts, and revitalization," was for a presentation at a national theater conference.
This post, "Revisiting stories: cultural planning and the need for arts-based community development corporations as real estate operators," updates it to include a point I missed originally, about the need for an arts-focused community development corporation as a key element. So the full list is now:
- Create your own discipline-specific cultural plan
- Come up with a sustainable cultural facilities plan for your community
- Create anchoring institutions and organizations
- Network and represent cultural interests at the scale of the community
- Build and share audiences across organizations and disciplines.
- Create an arts-focused community development corporation to buy, hold, and develop arts- and culture-related properties.
The original piece distinguishes between "arts as consumption" (like people going to museums and concerts) and "arts as production" (working artists, firms, and organizations producing "art"), and references the work of John Montgomery* on arts districts:
Characteristics of cultural quarters
(from Montgomery , "Cultural Quarters as Mechanisms for Urban Regeneration. Part 1: Conceptualising Cultural Quarters," Planning, Practice & Research, 18:4)
slightly revised and reordered
- Cultural venues at a variety of scales, including small and medium.
- Availability of workspaces for artists and low-cost cultural producers.
- Small-firm economic development in the cultural sectors.
- Managed workspaces for office and studio users.
- Location of arts development agencies and companies.
- Arts and media training and education.
- Art in the environment.
- Community arts development initiatives.
- Stable arts funding.
- Identity, image development, branding and marketing support.
- Complementary day-time uses.
- Complementary evening uses.