It is a rare bird these days who has not felt the economic shift since the collapse of 2008/2009. Resources have grown a bit more scarce, and budgets a bit more tight. To those who have been working a s full time artists before the shift it is probably most evident that most art buying Americans have seen their expendable income shrivel, or dry up all together. Thankfully that is not true across the board, as there is still a patronage of art buyers. This economic shift has also driven governments at the state and local level to look for new revenue sources, and new ways to generate interest and spending.
In my quest to get my brain around the economics of the business of art i have been doing a lot of research. Recently i found an amazing document online that was produces by the NGA (National Governors Association). Titled “Art and the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development” is a sizable document that works through the idea of creating destinations of art, culture, and purposing to incorporate the arts in community development.
The idea of a community planning into its development a presence of the Arts appeals to me so much. Having been associated in small measure with the rebirth and redevelopment of Tremont into the vibrant neighborhood that it now is I can see how Art can raise economic benefits. Tremont was a wasteland of arsoned buildings, crack houses and a sad group of people unable to afford to bring change to their neighborhood. I can remember when Tremont was a small town feel, local bakery, dry cleaner, grocer and the like in the 60s. But as those who could afford to move made that decision they left a group of people who did not have that luxury. By the last 1970s it was a rough place to be… and it was only those daring pioneers lured by location, inexpensive rent and amazing opportunity (if you are visionary). Fast forward 30 years and that storefront that used to have a spray painted sign “Eddie Moved” became an amazing gallery, and art space. Beautifully planted flower boxes and that fresh coat of paint attest to the rebirth of a community and a dream.
Planning for art tourism is a wonderful idea. Hang around and do a little reading about the big art fairs in our nation and quickly someone mentions Ann Arbor, Michigan. The grand daddy of them all draws a huge crowd for one weekend a year, with ripples into other events in that city. It began in 1960 as a collaborative effort between Ann Arbor Art Association and the University of Michigan. 55 years later it has grown into 4 art fairs in one, packing everything from museum quality fine art to fine craft, and over 325 artists. In that 4 days it is estimated that over 1 million people pass through those streets. Everyone gets thirsty, hungry, may need a place to stay, or at least gas in the car, not to mention making that strategic purchase.
I think we can agree that art has a place in the economy. I am thankful to be a part of that small percentage of the GDP of the United States.