A Case for Infrastructure
A new paradigm for arts advocacy is needed. Rattling our tin cup for more government funding is no longer enough. Yet economic impact studies paint an incomplete picture and can be dangerously misused.
Fractured Atlas' approach is holistic and focused on infrastructure. Policymakers shouldn't be curators, hand picking artists and organizations to support based on perceived aesthetic merit. Instead, it's the government's responsibility to ensure a healthy infrastructure in which creativity and culture can thrive.
Advocacy isn't an end in itself; it's a strategy for service. And sometimes the best way to support the cultural sector is to change the legal context in which it operates. That's why Fractured Atlas works to ensure the voice of the arts community is heard in Washington. In 2008 and 2009 we tackled complex issues like:
- charities regulation
- health insurance reform
- net neutrality
- orphan works
Place + Displaced
Who's visible? Who's invisible? And who's on the map?
Initially, there was Keep the Arts in Williamsburg, a loose coalition of Brooklyn-based artists and arts groups that came together to address issues facing a rapidly changing neighborhood. Fractured Atlas pitched in, facilitating meetings and communications between all the stakeholders – not just artists, but community activists, government, advocacy groups and social service organizations.
And the whole thing grew.
Now Fractured Atlas is working on a groundbreaking community mapping and civic participation project, "Place + Displaced." "Place + Displaced" examines the cycle of (often artist-driven) gentrification and identifies local sources of cultural vitality in support of neighborhood self-determination.
Based on the premise that a healthy cultural sector engages with the wider community, the project aims to foster dialogue and strategic alliances among artists and other residents at risk of displacement, in specifically targeted Queens/Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Each neighborhood unfolds in three phases. We begin by establishing partnerships with community groups and opening dialogues with elected officials. By identifying common concerns among diverse constituents, we maximize our political leverage and give participants a more holistic perspective on the challenges they face.
The second phase uses participatory action research to identify the neighborhood's sources of cultural vitality. Community members define what is most important in their own communities, actively participate in collecting data, and articulate the changes they want to see. This approach enables us to reach many who are traditionally left "off the map", unknown to outsiders but recognized within the community. Importantly, the process also supports our goal of community empowerment.
The third phase shares our work with stakeholders through an interactive online map, a report, and a series of public programs. The map will provide a layered display of artists, cultural organizations, and creative industries. It will illuminate the present, reveal what has been lost, and identify what is threatened.