Saturday, February 2, 2013

HOW WE MAKE THE CASE VIII: The Creative Placemaking Argument

NEA's Chief of Staff Jamie Bennett, in an interview with Barry Hessenius:
In creative placemaking, an entirely different trope is substituted: you begin with a shared interest – often a problem formulation – and you talk about what the arts can do to help achieve it. A common example is a community that begins with a vacant downtown or an abandoned warehouse district along its waterfront. The arts talk about the foot traffic that they can bring to an area, especially if you cluster arts organizations, since each has a different pattern of foot traffic. A theater has 1,000 people show up at eight o’clock and leave at eleven o’clock. A museum might have 1,000 people spread out over the course of an eight-hour day. A rehearsal studio might have 30 people coming and going every hour over twelve hours. You put the three different organizations in proximity to one another, and all of a sudden, you have a full day of positive foot traffic on a street – feet that belong to people who need to eat meals, buy newspapers, go shopping, and take public transportation. You have every mayor’s dream. 
And when you talk about the arts in those terms, resources start being invested in the arts. Not one of those organizations is being taken off mission, but they are highlighting their benefits to the collective good. People invest in them because they are part of a winning team (the abundance), rather than because they are needy (the scarcity). 
This is the framing that Rocco used as he went around to the other federal agencies. He didn’t go to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and say, “give me some of your budget for the arts.” Rocco, instead, talked with Secretary Donovan about their shared vision of helping to build complete, vibrant, sustainable communities that were welcoming and inclusive to Americans of all backgrounds and income levels.
I like this framing because it ties into the economics arguments that are effective, without being a dry debate about facts and figures. It's about the real impact that the arts can have in their community.