September 22, 2011

Arts and the Quality of Place

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This post comes from Paulette Beete at Art Works, the official blog of the National Endowment for the Arts.

This past Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan spoke at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, as part of the museum’s Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. The workshop and exhibition—which included an architect-in-residence studio component—examined new architectural possibilities for American cities and suburbs in the context of the recent foreclosure crisis.

Here’s an excerpt from Secretary Donovan’s speech, “From Crisis to Opportunity: Rebuilding Communities in the Wake of Foreclosure.” (You can also view a video of the entire keynote here and learn more about the project here.

In many of these places, with leadership from the National Endowment for the Arts, the arts and design are proving central to the turnaround.

In Minnesota, where construction of a major light rail along University Avenue connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul has the potential to open up access to jobs and opportunity for the neighborhoods it serves, 100 artists trained in community engagement are working with local businesses and residents.

Unlike the process that occurred 40 years ago, when an interstate was built to run directly through the Central Corridor—tearing apart neighborhoods and cutting them off from opportunity—artists and the community are working together to address pressing issues during the construction period and create a lasting cultural identity for the corridor.

In Miami, the ArtPlace partnership is helping the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts develop a largely dormant neighborhood into a New Town Square—tying the center to a fast-improving downtown and to the museums, with the promise of unifying what has historically been a sprawling region.

These efforts make a broader point about the quality of place. In cities across the country, from New York to New Orleans, we’ve seen when artists move in, others follow—from families looking to raise their children in dynamic, diverse neighborhoods to young creative professionals with skills that are essential to the 21st-century global economy.

In our old economy, people moved to where the jobs were. And back then, whole cities were one-company towns.

Well, in today’s economy, it’s the other way around. Capital and jobs follow people, and talent is mobile. And what that talent is looking for is quality of place—dynamic, diverse neighborhoods, whether they’re in cities or suburbs.

That’s why nurturing a vibrant arts community in our neighborhoods isn’t just about amenities or entertainment—it’s about economic development.

It’s about building communities that are successful, resilient, and economically vibrant.

What are your thoughts on how the arts contribute to “quality of place?” Let us know in the comments.

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