Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ties that Bind: The Arts' Social Role

Vital, dynamic cities need creative and green communities.  Art districts, sustainable neighborhood developments and revitalized downtowns need creative, green development. 

Cherokee Studios is a bold step towards growing Los Angeles’ support for artists that can contribute to city vitality and dynamism through the social role of the arts. 

“While the arts are commerce, they revitalize cities not through their bottom-line but through their social role.”[1]  Investment in urban space for art and artists is a fruitful means to drive neighborhood identity and spatially connect neighborhoods through their different cultural identities.  After all, who would want to commute to Hollywood or any other neighborhood if it was not, somehow, different. 

For, it is the interpretation of space as producers of not just goods, services and identity, but the interrelatedness of such products to neighboring spaces.  Cherokee Studios revitalizes an historic building and recording house while assisting Hollywood to place artists within the city.  Cherokee Studios is therefore a necessary part of a developing ecosystem of creativity, be it artistic, cultural, technological or economic that makes Hollywood a vital and dynamic neighborhood.  

Cities identified as creative centers are not thriving for traditional economic reasons such as tax breaks and incentives to lure business.  They are succeeding because creative people generate their success.  Beyond their economic impacts, urban artists make contributions to community vitality and dynamism by producing commissioned and informal public art.  Artists often participate in the planning of parks and cultural facilities.  Community events such as parades, festivals and fairs all receive active engagement from artists.  All of their efforts enliven the community.

As a locus of creative activity, Cherokee Studios and its residents will build ties that bind.  By providing a center for creative neighbors to congregate and a platform for communities to share resources like cultural facilities, the dividends of creative processes and conservationist techniques for urban living Cherokee Studios is an asset to the Los Angeles community.  The social network created by Cherokee for Hollywood residents and Los Angeles’ communities will translate into cultural vitality and economic dynamism. 

[1] Seifert, Susan C. & Mark J. Stern.  “Cultivating “Natural” Cultural Districts.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Artists Centers: RE-thinking Live/Work

"[Art] Centers operate in living neighborhoods or towns that offer a potential constituency and for whom they can be an ecnomic and social as well as cultural asset.  In smaller cities, centers may be tourist attractions and anchor tenants in commercial districts."(1)

REthink Development is not an arts manager or administrator that designs for organizational needs (i.e. nonprofits, unions or coalitions), but as creative industry advocates.

In that vein, REthink designs for place: a theater space, creative offices or, like Cherokee Studios, an entire enclave for artists to reside within Hollywood, a defined and growing arts district.

Art centers like Cherokee Studios can stimulate the creation of other artistic, commercial and community venues.  Support of creative engineers - fine artists, arts occupation employees as well as though leaders, symbol makers and creative entrepreneurs - can increase social interaction, create neighborhood identity and increase local economies.

As such, the affected neighborhods may resemble the strengths of the communities urban savat Jane Jacobs celebrated in 1960s Manhattan: SoHO, Chinatown, Little Italy and Greenwich Village - "a mosaic of unique cultural destinations that encourage city residents to cross porous borders to visit distinctive neighborhoods (Jacobs, 1961)"(2) - an attractive proposition to city developer and one sure still to be recognized to be as unique as Los Angeles.

Traditional definitions of art centers are derived from two distinguishing factors: 1) a dedicated space for gatherings, personl or group work areas, exhibitions and performances and shared equipment; and 2) an open door, so as to allow anyone who expresses interest to become a member, have access to events and services at an affordable price and apply for merit-based mentorships, funding, and exhibitions.

Cherokee is designed not as a traditional art center, but a place to house creative engineers and develop neighborhood culture, identity and arts related industries.

REthink-ing Live/Work
Rethink Development made use of a storied Hollywood building and recording studio to create residential communities for artists and to bolster local arts-related and supportive businesses.  And as larger entertainment and residential destinations receive a disproportionate share of public art and economic development funding, Cherokee Studios is smaller scale, embedded in the neighborhood and relates the unique character of the community.  

Art centers can develop an informal arts district, compound the impact of area arts-related industries and drive and economy of scale.  Art centers attract artists and audiences who spend money in nearby stores and restaurants.  They occupy and beautify building and spaces with outmoded zoning due to their flexible housing and work needs and disparate demographic representation.  Art centers present the city with one-off planning goals to develop urban centers through cultural planning.  It is the encouragement of grassroots urban planning.

Generally speaking, cultural and economic development policy undervalues the importance of space and place, particularly for the creative industries.  "Ongoing access to spaces that offer novelty and serendipitous encounters with other artists and art lovers is a great gift for artists."(3)  Regular and serendipitous encounters with art is a community asset, one that should be developed.  And we have done so with Cherokee studios.  

[1] Johnson, Amanda and Ann Markusen.  “Artists’ Centers: Evolution and Impact on Careers, Neighborhoods and Economies.”  University of Minnesota.  2006.

[2] Johnson, Amanda and Ann Markusen.  “Artists’ Centers: Evolution and Impact on Careers, Neighborhoods and Economies.”  University of Minnesota.  2006. 

[3] Markusen, Ann.  “The Urban Core as Cultural Sticky Place.”