Cities: Don’t Let Your Artists Starve!

From the International Economic Development Council

A vibrant arts scene and creative economy deliver multiple economic development benefits for a community, including small business creation and the attraction of new residents (Next City). Additionally, the spillover effects from creative enterprises can stimulate growth in more profitable technology and innovation-based sectors.

But cities are expensive, and creative types are typically not affluent. “Too often…the creative sector is a victim of its own success. Gravitating to affordable neighborhoods, creative professionals have become an emblem of gentrification, attracting interest in a new area while ultimately pricing themselves out,” writes Adam Forman of the Center for an Urban Future.

Austin’s music scene is key to its identity, and it even brands itself “the live music capital of the world.” But according to Mayor Steve Adler, due to rising costs of living, it’s reached a tipping point (Next City).

A new way the city evaluates its creative economy is through a BRE-like “music census” of 4,000 musicians and those employed in the music industry. The survey discovered that affordability is a chief concern for the city’s musicians. Many of the report’s suggestions mirror traditional economic development practices, such as easing permitting requirements and establishing “music zones” that would function like industry clusters.

Other solutions? Rather than offering isolated arts initiatives, embedding culture and the arts into everyday zoning and planning practices can promote a sustainable creative economy. Cities like New York, Nashville, and Minneapolis have affordable housing programs for artists. New York also provides stipends and cheap studio space to artists in exchange for working with the elderly. Kansas City, Missouri’s Economic Development Corporation recently began offering microloans to artists looking to expand their creative enterprises (KC Metropolis).

Food for thought for Ashtabula County communities.

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