Arts, Cultural Scenes, and Urbanism: New Directions in Research

January 18, 2008 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Classics 11 (1010 E. 59th Street)

Innovation has long been seen as crucial to the post-industrial knowledge economy and the cities where it is flourishing.  Arts and culture -- once minor concerns compared with education, crime, and transportation -- have assumed an increasingly central position in urban policy and planning debates.  While artists and culture-makers are thought to contribute to urban economic vitality directly through their own creative work, researchers, policymakers and arts advocates are beginning to explore the indirect spillover of artistic ideas and talent into creative industries or the broader “creative economy.”  Researchers are experimenting with how best to measure the ways that cultural activity and creativity attract and concentrate human capital in certain cities.

Even if there is relatively wide agreement that these different vectors link the arts and culture to economic growth, translating such generalities into policy has proven tricky.  Although the details remain sketchy, the last five years have given rise to a proliferation of local initiatives designed to support (or lure) the practitioners of fine and applied arts as they brand entire cities or regions as “creative.”  These new strategies beg a long list of policy research questions:

  • Do all artists generate the same artistic dividend, and under what conditions is the dividend the greatest?
  • How do ideas and talent actually migrate from the orthodox fine arts into other fields?
  • What mix of cultural offerings attracts college graduates, in general, and innovators, in particular, to urban centers?
  • To what degree is the cultural vitality of cities already shaped, for better or worse, by cultural plans and policies serving other agendas?

This symposium seeks to begin to address these and related questions through three presentations, each focusing on a new piece of research.

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.

Arts, Culture and Urbanism: A Policy-focused Research Agenda

Ann Markusen, University of Minnesota

The “creative city” buzz has outpaced institutional capabilities to capitalize on it. In this session,  Ann Markusen explores the institutional context for urban cultural planning: 1) the constituencies for cultural planning; 2) how cultural planning/policy is bureaucratically structured in cities; and 3) the role of leadership in new cultural policy initiatives.  She examine the interplay of these through three types of cultural spaces in cities--performing arts facilities, artists' live/work and studio buildings, and artists' centers--addressing issues of public investment, placement, urban design, and community development. She reflects on "cultural districts" and "cultural tourism" as creative city policy initiatives, questioning overly-concentrated investments and over-emphasis on external markets and patronage, and offers a policy-oriented research agenda.

10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Cultural Scenes: What They Are, How They Can Be Measured, and Why They Matter to the Future of Cities

Terry Clark, Larry Rothfield, and Dan Silver, University of Chicago

In this session, we explore a new way of analyzing the presence and power of culture in cities. Rather than a set of institutions or individual artists, we argue, urban culture is better understood as a variety of scenes. The concept of “scene” permits a more refined analysis of cultural consumption that may clarify hitherto fuzzy causal links between a city’s cultural amenities and various measures of economic development, civic engagement, and political identity. We begin with a brief theoretical discussion of the nature of scenes, then describe how we have operationalized the concept of scene to enable us to model and empirically register the presence of scenes. We conclude by offering some findings based on our testing of propositions about the factors that give rise to scenes and about the impact of scenes.

12:15 - 1:30 p.m.   -- BREAK

1:30 - 3 p.m.

Searching for Greenwich Village: Hip Urbanism in the New Nashville

Richard Lloyd, Vanderbilt University

In recent years Southern cities like Nashville have experienced a surge in patterns of core city residential development, including high-end condominium construction and neighborhood gentrification. Accompanying this development is the accumulation of consumption amenities directed at a "cosmopolitan" residential population: young, liberal, educated, and culturally omnivorous. These new principles of urban design and downtown culture evoke, often explicitly, spatial ideologies rooted in New York's Greenwich Village --  as described in Jane Jacobs' theories of urban design and more generally calling to mind the bohemian tradition of cultural inventiveness for which Greenwich Village provides the US prototype. These developments dramatically counter the standard patterns of sprawling growth, political conservatism, and cultural provincialism associated with past metropolitan expansion in the South. Drawing on the case of Nashville, TN this paper makes preliminary assessments of the local, national and international forces at work driving this still-nascent trend in the latest iteration of “New South."

3:15 – 4:00 p.m.

Concluding Discussion and Remarks