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10 Policies To Increase The Impact Of The Arts (Charm City Edition)

All quotes are by Kip Bergstrom. Find the original list here: g/

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Policy #1: Foster partnerships between creatives and visionary mayors.


Visionary mayors are the primary source of initiative in regional economies, the weavers who bring together the threads of the arts, historic preservation, economic development, housing, transportation and education to create the fabric of placemaking. Without the weaver, the arts are simply a single thread.

Likewise, visionary mayors need to move beyond the large arts institutions to directly engage their community of local arts entrepreneurs in order to the maximize vibrancy and creative energy of their cities. This engagement requires a light touch, as successful entrepreneurial communities, arts or otherwise, need to be allowed to self-organize from the bottom up, rather than be organized by government from the top down.

Policy #2: Balance funding between institutional and entrepreneurial/market approaches.


Artists are generally more nimble and entrepreneurial than established arts organizations. One of our key challenges is to overcome the inertia of arts organizations in order to engage and unleash the energy of the creatives in a local place. Funders should allow individual artists to apply for funding, alone for smaller grants and in partnership with an organization for larger grants.

Policy #3: Focus the measurement of arts outcomes on the role of the arts in creating distinctive places that are magnets for talent.


Much of the current thinking in state arts policy circles (e.g., NGA, NASAA, AFTA) is about measuring the impact of the arts as a job creator, focusing on the direct jobs created by arts organizations and the indirect jobs created by the spending of arts organizations and their patrons. These direct and indirect job effects are actually much less than the potential job impact that the arts can have on the larger economy by the way that the arts contribute to distinctiveness of place, making localities magnets for the young, mobile talent, who crave distinctive places and who are the primary fuel for the growth of the innovation economy.

Policy #4: Tailor placemaking strategies to the neighborhood context.


There are very different kinds of placemaking challenges at the neighborhood level that require a different leadership approach and policy tool kit:

Low-income neighborhoods which have static or declining vibrancy, due to persistent rates of poverty and declining population and job growth.There are often deep creative capabilities among existing residents that can be unleashed and developed. But, to be effective, arts initiatives need to be coordinated with housing redevelopment, workforce development and school reform.

Distinctive, mixed–income neighborhoods with rising vibrancy. These neighborhoods have the challenge of maintaining diversity and distinctiveness in the face of “commodification” as rising rents crowd out diversity of people and use. The result is more high-income people, more chains and large companies, and less socio-economic diversity and less one-of-a-kind shops and start-ups. This is extremely problematic as diversity is a fundamental precondition for innovation.

Generic chic neighborhoods with declining vibrancy. These neighborhoods have the challenge of using some of their prosperity to buy back some of the soul they sold to get it.

Implied in all this is a fourth context: the un-place, the vast expanse of undifferentiated strip malls, subdivisions and office parks in seas of industrialized agriculture that characterizes much of the American landscape.

Policy #5: Use housing and historic preservation policy to promote and maintain diversity.


Very recently, there is growing federal and state interest in building mixed-income housing at transit nodes, mostly for environmental and workforce access reasons, versus as a deliberate strategy to maintain diversity in distinctive, mixed income neighborhoods. Scattered site housing programs go in the direction of deliberately fostering fine-grained diversity.

The network is the emergent structure of the larger innovation economy of which the arts are a part. The work of Lee Fleming at Harvard shows that the most productive networks connect a diverse and dynamic group of individual innovators across institutional and sector boundaries. These networks are formed by a subset of innovators who move from one firm or organization to another, taking with them the relationships at the previous place. This happens both by individual choice and by firm failure, in which case the talent of the failed firm is recycled into other existing firms and startups.

Policy #8: Link creative placemaking initiatives to form regional learning communities.


Fleming notes the importance of frequent face-to-face interaction to exchange tacit knowledge, the principal currency of innovation. Tacit knowledge is not conscious and hence cannot be conveyed via the Internet. As Michael Polyani put it, we know more than we can tell. Fleming calls these networks for tacit knowledge exchange small world innovation networks. But, the geography of small world innovation networks is not limited to a single dense node, such as Kendall Square in Cambridge. When we think about the creative places we are making, we need to conceive of them in a metropolitan or super regional network, and strengthen the connection among places (nodes) in the network to amplify the market for talent, ideas and products (including art) of each node in the network, and the opportunity to learn from each other's success and failures.

Baltimore Hackers:

Policy #9: Use art to help make urban schools the best places to develop pattern recognition skills.


The arts draw upon and develop a capacity for pattern recognition that can be applied outside of art. It's why the best medical schools have their students take art classes to improve their diagnostic capabilities. It's why as Ken Robinson showed in the UK, the schools with the best art programs have the best math and science results. We should aggressively exploit this connection, using art along with other project-based learning to make schools in low-income neighborhoods the best schools at developing pattern recognition skills, leap-frogging the suburban schools to produce an innovation-capable workforce and serving as the primary mechanism for promoting upward mobility and reducing income inequality.

Policy #10: Use public art to radically enhance the public realm and create conditions for serendipity.


"Creative Place" resists intentionality. Innovation is not predictable. A great place is not where you go to do something; it is somewhere you go to enjoy doing nothing. Civic engagement should be fun, a form of collective cleverness.

And without good public space, there is no civic engagement; in fact there is no city.

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