Can the NEA save our cities?

In yesterday’s New York Times, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Southern California took the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to task for its attempts to use art to revitalize neighborhoods.  She thinks the NEA may be taking a simplistic approach:

The idea that art can be an economic engine is hardly new, and a walk through SoHo, Venice Beach or Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood shows it can work. The N.E.A.’s promotional material makes clear that its goal is to create new SoHo’s in hard-hit cities across the country. But contrary to the N.E.A.’s good intentions, it takes more than grants and tax breaks to make the arts thrive. . .

Her main point is that each successful arts district in the US was shaped by factors that had to do with both real estate trends and the spacial and cultural requirements of type of art that was being created in the areas that experienced revitalization.  She concludes:  “using art as a development tool is like working with quicksilver: it’s hard to know which path it might take, and a tough proposition when dealing with taxpayers’ money and foundation grants.”

A worthy caution.  You can read the full article here.

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