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There is a significant correlation between the amount of amateur, informal arts activity in neighborhoods and neighborhood stability and/or improvement. This correlation is evidence of magnetization - an increase in the desirability, commitment, social integration, and quality of life in a community area. Arts create shared experience, they encourage intergenerational activity and make public spaces enjoyable, among other effects. For those reasons, components of comprehensive community development should include space for amateur and semi-professional activity.
There is a significant correlation between the amount of amateur, informal arts activity and neighborhood stability and/or improvement. This correlation is evidence of magnetization—an increase in the desirability, commitment, social integration, and quality of life in a community area. We believe this is so because arts make public spaces enjoyable, they create shared experience, and they encourage intergenerational activity.
Components of comprehensive community development should include space for amateur and semi-professional performance. There are many ways for philanthropy, government and the private sector to support the supply of informal arts, the demand for informal arts, and the availability of space.
The Value of Arts Activity
Documenting the “value” of local arts has been a topic of lively research and debate for more than twenty years. Early multiplier studies measured the scope of the professional arts sector—counting revenues and employees in professional arts establishments such as symphony, opera, theaters, and museums, multiplying by an economic “multiplier,” and reporting the result as an estimate of the economic impact of the local arts industry. However, multiplier studies usually do not address the value of the arts for neighborhoods since venues for the professional arts sector are typically located downtown or in only a few select neighborhoods.
More recently, creative class studies have focused on the arts as an environmental attraction by which cities lure high-value-added “creative” industries. The argument is that the artistic cachet of a city is an important asset that supports the lifestyle of the “creative” workers in those industries—computer and math scientists, architects, engineers, social scientists, designers, and entertainers. The cachet argument expands the scope of the value of the arts in two very important ways:
- The list of arts activities considered “valuable” is expanded to include semi-professional and amateur activities that appeal to high-pay “creative” workers; examples are poetry readings or open-mic coffeehouse performances.
- The list of places where valuable arts activity can occur is expanded to include neighborhoods anywhere in the city where high-pay “creative” workers might go to experience those activities.
Cachet studies address neighborhood benefits to the extent that high-pay, creative workers might want to travel to those neighborhoods for arts experiences, or even choose to live there.
What is a magnetization study? Data are presented to show that arts activities are desired by neighborhood residents, whether or not they are high-pay “creative” workers, and that neighborhoods with higher concentrations of arts activity have higher levels of neighborhood commitment and involvement. This magnetization of neighborhoods through the arts (as well as other activities) is associated with higher levels of neighborhood stability and/or improvement. To rule out economic level as a factor, all of the data presented in this paper are from low-income neighborhoods. The focus on low-income areas also allows a more specific discussion of the role that appropriately-conceived arts activities might have in strategies for neighborhood development.
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