When Good Ideas Occur To Lazy Readers

Occasionally I get a sense that I have a bunch of interesting ideas percolating in my subconscious because I will occasionally misread the title of an article and have a whole slew of assumptions about the article which don’t bear out. It makes me think my subconscious has these ideas but is just waiting for someone else to do all the hard work of proving they are viable.

This occurred with an piece in Fast Company about how Minnesota based Artspace (not to be confused with ArtPlace) prevents artists from being displaced from communities due to the gentrification they helped encourage.

Artspace has done this by building all types of artist housing/work spaces in the Twin Cities (as well as 21 other cities in the US). Because Artspace controls the housing, the artists aren’t as apt to be priced out of the neighborhood as they have been in so many other place.

But the article title which included the words “artists revived an old warehouse district–and got to stick around to reap the benefits of what they helped create” and “Give Artists Their Own Real Estate Developers,” made me think someone came up with a plan where the artists received some increasing financial benefit as the neighborhood improved.

I imagined there might be some sort of version of the 1% for art for the neighborhood where artists received a share of every real estate transaction that occurred–every time a construction project began; every time a property was sold or leased to a new business; every time an apartment was rented and re-rented–artists actually benefited financially from the improving fortunes of the neighborhood.

Since all this came flooding into my mind when I caught sight of the titles, I am not quite sure how it would work. But I wonder if a city would be willing to license an organization like Artspace or create a sort of investment fund which would receive a cut of all transactions for 25-30 years. I am not sure at what stage this might happen. Gentrification of a neighborhood often starts when artists move into spaces they aren’t really supposed to be inhabiting so they wouldn’t want to call attention to themselves too soon.

All charter artist members of the organization/fund would get a payout every so often which would help diminish the impact of the gentrification and benefit those responsible for inspiring the improving conditions. If the money was going to a non-profit like Artspace, perhaps they would use a portion of the funds to develop low cost artist accommodations and seed similar artist beneficial gentrification efforts in other cities.

Imagine artists having a piece of every Starbucks lease, every high rise luxury apartment construction project, every boutique shop renovation, every bar and restaurant opening, every skyrocketing apartment rental or sale.

And if having to pay that percentage inhibits this sort of development–well that is all the longer that artists can actually afford to live there. It would actually be good if companies started moaning publicly about paying a percentage because it would start to illustrate the real economic impact of the arts.

Just think if rather than just real estate, every transaction, from cups of coffee and shoes sold to parking fees and haircuts, within a district was charged even a quarter of a percent in support of the artists there. At the end of every year you would have some real hard data about the economic growth the presence of artists initiated in that neighborhood.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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