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Art and Culture as a Local Economic Development Strategy

Tuesday, 28 September 2010 06:14
USA Today has an interesting article about how Grand Rapids, Michigan has gotten a boost to its economy from a modest arts prize awarded each year by a private donor. This raises the issue of whether some communities may use similar methods to more systematically provide economic development. A local government could adopt something like an artistic freedom voucher system to encourage creative workers (e.g. musicians, writers, artists, etc) to live in their city. Since these people would want to get support from the local population through the voucher system, they would have a strong incentive to perform frequently. This could turn a city into an arts mecca.
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Enough with the creative workers
written by Steven Sherman, September 28, 2010 7:05
Every city in the US with more than 10000 inhabitants is pursuing the 'creative class'. When everyone is trying the same thing, bubbles tend to emerge. Doesn't our society have any needs besides artists?
Grand Rapids - Kent County
written by Ron Alley, September 28, 2010 7:32
Grand Rapids is a beautiful, almost idyllic city. As I recall, it is the county seat of Kent County and the home District of Gerald Ford. I think Kent County has not elected a Democrat to any position, save dog catcher, in the past sixty years.

Grand Rapids is home to many wonderfully creative people, Amway, and many of the tool and die shops that have supported the automotive industry. Ironically, the success of the Republican Party in promoting off-shoring has worked against the foundation of its economy. The promotion of its art scene is merely an attempt by the Corporate Party - Right Wing to divert attention from the real problems facing Grand Rapids and the nation.
written by Tom, September 28, 2010 7:35
$250,000 is modest?
beautifying the Commons
written by frankenduf, September 28, 2010 8:12
Philly also fosters the arts, via zoning law which mandate public works of art be erected on large corporate properties- it's a great idea that has certainly made our environment more dynamic, creative, and inspiring (token holocaust statue art notwithstanding!?)
To many comunists
written by Joe, September 28, 2010 9:26
ever since obama stoled the election him and his storm troopers want every body to get distracted by things like these homo art festivals so we the people dont see how they are tearing up our constitution. When we are done looking at all this stupid arty farty stuff we will be prisoners with all our constitution rights stolen by these nazi socialists
written by Ethan, September 28, 2010 9:42
Ashland OR is a good example of what a small town can do with an arts centered industry. 20,000 year round residents, at least 50% more from February to October. Check it out.
written by John Shaplin, September 28, 2010 11:27
For the most part this is what actually happens, through private foundations and grants. Live theater in America would be practically inconceivable without it. It certainly can't support itself with ticket sales. What Mr. Baker suggests is that more of the funding could be made public, although in many cities Public Arts Councils are very active and provide quality of life improvements (leisure, intellectual development, health and sociability, for example) which are not easily measured by GDP, though live arts are a form of consumption that could be easily characterized among the most sustainable.
The Art of City Management
written by diesel, September 28, 2010 12:08
Ring ring. "Mayor speaking."

"What's that you say? An art exhibit in a neighboring downtown was actually a money maker? And the prize money was donated by a tax-exempt foundation? Well no, you're right, there's no reason we can't do that right here in Centreville. Damnit! Didn't we just cut the Art programs in all our public schools, and lay off all the teachers? Get on the horn and hire em back. We're gonna establish the most profitable art curriculum in the state. And let those teachers know that the assessment standards apply. Teachers whose student's work aren't accepted in the shows and who can't demonstrate that their school's program is profitable for the city will be canned. That'l light a fire under their as*es.... Hell yes, it's a great idea. That's why I'm the boss. Now get on it." Hangs up.

Musing to himself, "Who'da thought that Art, of all things?"
written by John Shaplin, September 28, 2010 12:48
Excuse my mental slippage but in consideration of Mr. Baker's suggestion , recall the 10s of millions of dollars in subsidies and grants dispersed by public authorities to build and maintain sports arenas in their communities.
written by purple, September 28, 2010 4:58
The rest of the world heavily subsidizes the arts in a very broad sense. Certainly China does.
written by diesel, September 28, 2010 9:46
Hey, my comment above was supposed to be a joke. As an artist and a former art teacher, I'm just a little amused that art gets attention when it is found to be a money maker, otherwise, it's an endangered species. Personally, I think the idea of vouchers is terrific. But, this being America, I give it a snowball's chance.
written by purple, September 28, 2010 11:05
Dean, You should talk to the AFM and other artists unions about this. Though your organization doesn't get funding from unions, one could see some of them supporting this.
Everybody Knows...
written by android1956, September 29, 2010 1:08
...that the best way to get a business out of the red and into the black is to increase revenues, not cut expenditures...

...and that the BEST way to fix the deficit is to raise taxes...

It's just not the FUN way...

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.