We Want Your Ideas! Investing in Infrastructure for the Arts

The Economist has a short piece about the opportunities and pitfalls in Obama’s plan to make massive investments in infrastructure projects.  The writer observes that the US has historically underinvested in infrastructure, while the projects that are carried out are funded in a haphazard manner through Congressional member items with little or no federal oversight or planning.

In our current rush to stimulate the economy by funding many projects as quickly as possible, it’s more important than ever that we have a coherent strategy to ensure that infrastructure spending is really an investment in economic growth instead of just a way to provide some short-term jobs.  Part of that strategy should include targeted investments aimed at bolstering the creative sector.

The arts are an unparalleled driver of economic development, especially in cities.  A vibrant cultural sector brings quality-of-life improvements that attract knowledge workers from other industries, increases the property tax base, and attracts tourism dollars.  (Yes, gentrification is a concern, but it’s a problem that can be mitigated with responsible planning.)  And if “bang for the buck” is a serious consideration - which it should be - then we could do worse than to invest in an industry that for centuries has devised ways to accomplish great things on shoestring budgets.

What would these infrastructure investments look like?  Affordable space in which to live and work.  Adequate financing for capital projects.  Tax incentives and economic development programs that no longer discriminate against non-profits.

Over the next few months, Fractured Atlas is going to be promoting this vision in New York, Washington, and anywhere else where they’ll listen to us. But we need more ideas!  So, what are YOUR thoughts about investing in our cultural infrastructure? Post them in the comments here.  If they seem worthwhile and doable, we’ll make sure they’re included in the policy discussions that unfold.


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9 Responses to “We Want Your Ideas! Investing in Infrastructure for the Arts”

  1. Andy:

    Does general operating support count? That’s what we need more than anything else. Unrestricted funding provides stability and facilitates risk taking.

  2. bridgitaevans:

    I would like to be involved in discussions about infrastructure and policy, my sense is that the strongest way to secure support for art infrastructure is to find innovative ways to collaborate with other sectors, ie supporting programs that pay artists and institutions to collaborate with the humanitarian, social services and education sectors. I have more concrete thoughts, please contact me if you are having more formal discussions about this, thanks Bridgit

  3. Adam Huttler:

    Bridgit,

    Thanks for your interest. We definitely want to get as much input as possible and from as many different voices as possible. Since the FA community is over 80,000 strong, however, there needs to be some focus and organization to the process.

    I posted this on the blog mainly to try to jumpstart some brainstorming. If there’s an idea that we love, we’ll certainly follow up with the person before doing anything serious with it.

    So, I guess all of that is to say that I’d encourage you to share your thoughts here in more detail if you’re comfortable doing so. If nothing else, they might help spark ideas in someone else’s head.

    Thanks,
    Adam

  4. Annie Lanzillotto:

    1. we need another W.P.A. Arts Division, where artists can serve the country in community projects, oral histories, theater projects… the cultural initiatives we are prone to do anyway.

    2. artists have many of the same needs, shelter, studio space, the need to give or teach. We would benefit from living spaces like Kibbutz, where we could learn and teach sustainability.

    3. artists with disabilities who are homeless are left out in the cold. I lost my apartment a year and a half ago. I organized a group of evicted artists called P.E.A.C.H. PRICED-OUT AND EVICTED ARTISTS COMING HOME. We went to Senator Eric Adams in Brooklyn, and had very good meetings, but the bottom line is that the five of us who gathered are now all couch-surfing out of state. Our suffering, middle aged pains (I’m a double cancer survivor), has overwhelmed each of us, and as we know from other movements, the struggle is too much for individuals, we need a movement. Alone we are overcome.

  5. Melanie:

    The federal government should give grants to after school, curiculum-based, cultural programs for preschool to high school students. Not only does this invest in the educational future of our kids and help working parents that might not be able to afford childcare, it supports the creative community. It helps schools & service organizations serve their constituents; it gives support to the non-profit cultural organizations that run the program; and it puts money in the pockets of the artists/writers/musicians that are the teaching artists who run the program.

  6. Carrie:

    Is it true that the IRS recently reversed a 20 year old ruling that allowed non-profit housing organizations to discriminate in favor of artists? If so, that is a step in the wrong direction. Most artists need space–containers for our work and ideas–above all else.

    I’ve also been wondering if the W.P.A. program could be revived. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech emphasized service, and with a W.P.A. program, artists could model the service to society that will bring about transformations that even a great president can’t do alone.

  7. Adam Huttler:

    @Carrie

    I hadn’t heard that about the IRS. That’s definitely an interesting issue to explore.

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