The next growth industry in America? Public-private arts projects
Art and design, while often positioned as luxuries, are actually big, underutilized economic drivers. Just look at the elevated High Line Park in Manhattan, a private-public project that is generating more jobs, revenue, and investment than expected. And don't forget the joy factor.
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The arts unite all kinds of people in a time of deprivation and competition. ArtPlace counts nearly a dozen leading foundations, a handful of federal agencies, and half a dozen major banks among its backers. This level of coordination is usually reserved for post-disaster times, not forward-thinking, proactive initiatives of this sort.Skip to next paragraph
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The initial $11.5 million being invested by ArtPlace will fund collaborative projects proposed by communities, developers, museums, small businesses, universities, and many combinations thereof. The 34 projects hail from an equal number of cities as far and wide as Boise, Idaho; Detroit; Honolulu; and New Orleans – representing 20 states, red and blue alike. This is precisely the kind of post-partisan, public-private partnership that America needs more of.
Critics of such art projects may be tempted to point to the Census Bureau’s devastating announcement that more than 2.5 million people slipped into poverty last year, adding to the approximately 44 million counted the year before.
Why invest in art when many Americans don’t have enough to eat? However, it is in these trying times that we need more and better public spaces for people to gather, in which to lift our spirits and imagine a brighter future. And more than that, art and public space projects can create jobs, build new skills, and revitalize strained communities.
The visionary financial institutions, foundations, and federal agencies backing the High Line and ArtPlace should seize this moment by redoubling their investments. They can start by restoring arts education in schools, supporting individual artists and entrepreneurs driving the creative economy, and funding cultural institutions and museums so vital to public life in this country.