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.”  

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