Artists downtown : capitalizing on arts districts in New England
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
J. Mark Schuster.
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From the construction of the Bilbao Guggenheim to the support of grassroots artist housing campaigns, urban planners increasingly look to artists and cultural activity as forces of urban regeneration. In New England, the most visible of these redevelopment efforts are so-called "arts districts." Arts districts seek to promote the revitalization of downtowns or blighted neighborhoods by capitalizing on the development of arts activity and the recruitment of artists. This thesis investigates four such districts (Providence RI, Pawtucket RI, Worcester MA, and New Bedford MA) in order to answer whether or not arts districts are a feasible strategy to achieve economic and community revitalization, and identify the ways in which artists can be proactively involved in the urban regeneration process. Can arts districts be engineered to be successful? The thesis begins by critiquing the theory behind culture as a force of urban regeneration; it then examines how artists live their lives in the city. Also, it analyzes the history of cultural districts to frame the current efforts in New England. For each of these cases a set of defining characteristics is analyzed. The analysis of these case studies led to several important conclusions. City officials utilize many different models for arts districts, and because of this all arts districts are not the same. Clear, professional management of a district is imperative to accomplishing local goals. Three different types of artists emerged: "visionary," "participant" and "private" artists, each with a different relationship to planning efforts and each with a contribution to make. The cases revealed a need to find a balance between cultural consumption and cultural production in a district. Finally, in addition to any economic success that a district might enjoy on its own terms, an additional benefit is often the creation of a cultural coalition better able to engage with a city around development efforts. Arts districts can be engineered; but success is relative - it depends to a large extent on local conditions. For cities considering creating a district, this thesis presents 11 propositions to keep in mind. Finally, the question of whether or not capitalizing on arts districts is a good idea is broached. For certain locales, they are, but they should be considered as only one movement in the complex symphony of urban revitalization.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2003.Includes bibliographical references (p. 165-168).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.