Above: Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
By Richard Florida, Creative Class Group
Originally posted at The Atlantic Cities
Arts spending alone can’t stimulate economic growth. But a community’s aesthetic assets — its architecture and public spaces, its musical, theatrical, and artistic communities and institutions — are among its most priceless resources.
At the Aspen Ideas Festival last Saturday, I had the opportunity to talk with Rocco Landesman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dennis Scholl of the Knight Foundation, and Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation about the linkage between artistic and cultural funding, place-making, and economic vibrancy -- the very elements that make a city "sing."
"Cities have organically, authentically sang without a lot of intervention from the Ford Foundation," Walker noted. "What we are now thinking about is how to channel and support the local, authentic leadership……I don’t want to give the impression that there is a top down way for cities to sing.”
As Jane Jacobs used to say, government and foundations can and should provide infrastructure and support, but the inspiration must come from the citizens.
Scholl spoke to the importance of public spaces that help to knit communities together. "There’s a confluence of circumstances that finally makes it the arts' turn," he said. "Maybe because of the financial crisis, people have stopped dropping multi-billion dollar stadiums in places and chasing companies to bring them in and are looking instead at the organic bubbling that goes on in communities." Social offerings, he added, are the most important things that people care about in their communities, according to the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Communitystudy.
Great schools, affordable health care and safe streets all help create strong communities. But is there something deeper that draws people to a city – that makes them want to put down roots and build a life?