Heard on Campus: Can the Arts Revive Our Cities’ and the Nation’s Economy?

Heard on Campus is a new feature on this blog that I hope becomes a fairly regular one. When I attend arts-related lectures or seminars on campus, I’ll report back here with the highlights, allowing you to “eavesdrop” on the event.

Last week, I stopped by the second event in the Arts and the City Year seminar series: “Can the Arts Revive Our Cities’ and the Nation’s Economy?” There were some mighty impressive people on hand, and here’s what a few of them had to say about the arts’ impact on both local and national economies:

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of National Endowment for the Arts: “Any discussion of policy in coming out of this recession [and] any plan that addresses economic growth and urban and neighborhood revitalization has to include the arts [because]…the arts are a force for social cohesion and civic engagement[,]…the arts make a major difference in child welfare[,]…and art is a poverty fighter.

Art works. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.”

Julia Olin, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which runs the National Folk Festival: “Lowell, Mass. is entering its 24th year of producing a successor festival to the National [Folk Festival]….Lowell is one of those places where the depression of the 1930s came early and stayed for a long time.

The festival in Lowell [now] attracts about 200,000 people a year, and in the 20-some years since the festival came, Lowell has [created] six new museums, a new arena and sports center, two minor league teams (hockey and baseball), hundreds of artists have relocated there, and in the downtown area, which was mostly social service and subsidized housing, 1.7 million square feet have been renovated.”

Greg Rowe, Director of Culture Initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts: “People feel very connected to arts and culture, and in Philadelphia…twice as many [Philadelphians] attend arts events as attend sports events, and their levels of satisfaction in the arts are higher than they are for sports.

But we haven’t turned that into grassroots support. They say that, they feel that, but they’re not necessarily showing up at the doors of institutions or consuming arts in the ways that all arts managers would like them to. And instead of battling that, we’re saying to take that in, accept it, understand the opportunities there are and don’t pretend that they’re the great unwashed that need to be brought into your institution in order to be made whole. They already are quite whole.”

Nick Spitzer C’72, Host and Producer of American Routes: “I’m getting nostalgic for Philly.”

Cookie Ruiz, Executive Director of Ballet Austin: “As the economy got tough [in the last few years] and our city faced a significant deficit…[the creative community] realized that we had a much greater voice [all together] than we in the performing arts had [alone]. [Now] we broadly define the creative community in Austin.

The work that we’ve been doing in Create Austin has been to make sure that within the next 10 years, we really build an artistic/creative middle class for Austin. You’ve got tremendous success in the commercial world, [but] you’ve got many, many, many starving artists…Our goal is to really look at some of the infrastructural means that cities need in order to keep creative people there.”

1 Comment

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One response to “Heard on Campus: Can the Arts Revive Our Cities’ and the Nation’s Economy?

  1. Bob

    Thanks, Molly. Great idea! You’re performing a valuable service for those of us who can’t get back to campus as often as we might like. Thanks again from a faithful reader.

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