The arts in community planning and development | Jamie Bennett | TEDxHudson

The arts in community planning and development | Jamie Bennett | TEDxHudson



so I grew up in hones Dale Pennsylvania we were a small town but with 5,000 people we were actually the largest town in our County and there were a lot of things that our county had we had more cows than people and more deer than cows but artists the first thing I remember seeing an artist it actually wasn't in hones Dale it was three hours away it was my birthday and we drove into New York City to see sandy Duncan playing Peter Pan on Broadway as a seven-year-old boy I think I was probably more excited about the Sardis cheesecake we had before the show or maybe by all the pirates who were in it but looking back from now it's the artists who are the most important part of that night I remember understanding for the first time what an artist was that sandy Duncan was on a stage playing a role in front of an audience that night and that realization pretty much set me on the path that my life has taken after that night I eventually returned to New York City to kiss Amanda Peet well I actually came to study theater but I got to kiss Amanda Peet on stage in order to pay for school and stay in the city I took a job in fundraising and that job led me to the New York Philharmonic the Museum of Modern Art the National Endowment for the Arts and now our place America so that night was undeniably important to me but that night also taught me something wrong a lesson that would take me some 30 years to realize was a mistake that night taught me that artists are people who live far away there's something about that word artists that a lot of people find foreign they see artists as others as people who don't live in homes Dale a colleague of mine was doing some research for the Urban Institute and she went into communities and she who are your artists time and again she was told oh we don't have any of those here but Maria knew that wasn't true because she was visiting communities that were alive with music and singing and dancing but no one used that word artists this summer I was in Aspen Colorado and I was moderating a panel with Dennis sholde from the night foundation at one point Dennis looked at at the audience and he said who here is above her about 2/3 of the hands went up he said who here is a tennis player same number of hands were in the air but when he asked which of you is an artist no one raised their hand Dennis looked out at the audience and he said I've seen most of you play and I'm guessing that you're probably better artists I don't know why it is that we can so easily see ourselves on a continuum with Serena Williams or Tiger Woods but we don't think that anything we do has anything in common with sandy Duncan I mean thinking back to hones Dale our neighbor was a cartoonist whose comics were published by Marvel Comics I took recorder lessons from a woman who performed in a baroque ensemble my father he got to play the rabbi in a production of Fiddler on the Roof but not one of them was called an artist I believe the disconnect is serious and I believe it's deep and I believe it comes from the fact that many of us do not know where art comes from a group of foundations commissioned some national research they discovered that 96% of Americans value the role of art in their lives 96% 27% value artists that research led to the creation of United States artists which took as its tagline art comes from artists it's good right as alice water knows better than any of us this is a disconnect that the food world has also had to deal with I mean when I was growing up I thought that steak came from the A&P I didn't understand it had anything to do with all of those cows but the food world has successfully made this connection and today we eat local our restaurants are farm-to-table and we know our farmers know our food I think this is exactly what we need to do with artists we need to understand that art comes from artists and we need to understand that artists are our neighbors they live work and play just like the rest of us so what is possible if we learn to recognize that artists are some of the people in our neighborhood well the chairman of the NEA and the president of the Ford Foundation wanted to find out so they pulled together the presidents of some of the largest foundations in the country to wrestle with this very question those presidents walked into that room knowing that the typical arts conversation in this country is framed only around what the arts do not have money right we open with our lack and we spend every conversation with our handout these presidents wanted to see what would happen if we tried the opposite what would happen if we led with our abundance with the thing that we do have and that's artists artists are the one asset that exists in every community not every community has a waterfront not every community has strong public transportation not every community is lucky enough to be anchored by a hospital or a major university but every community has people who sing and dance and tell stories in 2009 the National Endowment for the Arts introduced a new phrase to the country as creative placemaking and creative placemaking was simply meant to capture the ways that artists can help shape the social physical and economic characters of their communities it was a back formation planners here will recognize that it refers to the work of Jane Jacobs and William white and simply adds creative to their arsenal of placemaking intervention now the phrase was new but not the concept in Lascaux our Paleolithic ancestors inscribed the boundaries of their communities with images of their collective experience in ancient Greece the theater was not only the physical center of its community it was also the social Civic and religious Center and this Hudson Opera House that we're all in today it served its community as a theatre but also as a City Hall a library a bank and a jail bank in jail so why didn't we need a new phrase for work that was at least as old as recorded history well it fundamentally repositions the arts it talks about what the arts bring to the table not what they lack it doesn't ask what a community should do for the Arts it asks what the what can the arts do for their community and it positions art and culture as a core sector of Community Planning and Development right alongside housing transportation Public Safety and open space and that means that we need to be prepared to talk about the arts in the language of mayors and city planners and that's no stretch take foot traffic it's one of the most important things for someone who's concerned about public safety or local economies and it happens to be a natural byproduct of the Arts in Opera House might have 500 people walk into it at 8 o'clock if the directors done their job well those 500 people will stay and walk out together at 10 o'clock that's great but that's only two hours of the day a museum on the other hand might have 500 people walk in and out over the course of a day and rehearsal studios might have a dozen people in and out every hour cluster these together and you begin driving 12 14 even 16 hours of positive foot traffic I is to keep us safe but also wallets that need to buy lunch or a newspaper or a train ticket and that brings us to the economy last year for the first time ever the federal government calculated what art adds to the economy every year the bureau of economic analysis calculated that art and cultural production has a unique value add of five hundred and four billion dollars to GDP every year that's serious dollars so foot traffic is great and so is adding to the economy but there are lots of other things that do this and some may do it in bigger numbers and the arts take a stadium or a big box store for instance so why do we also need the arts and Community Development because the arts do something that those other sectors don't the arts help drive more stable communities gallop the national polling organization decided to investigate what makes someone call a place their home what makes them put their roots down the top three drivers of community attachment were social offerings openness and aesthetics in other words the arts an anthropologist in Chicago studied the informal arts the kind of things that are more likely to be a part of our everyday lives like singing in a church choir or acting in that community theatre production of Fiddler she found that people who participate in these activities together both reinforce their individual identity but they also forge a group solidarity and the social bonds that are formed last well beyond when the drumming circle is over those people use those connections to navigate the city for the rest of their lives a UCLA professor took a look at low socioeconomic status students across this country these are some of the most at-risk youth in our country he found that these students who had high arts exposure were more likely to vote more likely to volunteer and more likely to participate in student and local government people who participate in the arts are more likely to participate in civic activities beyond the arts so let's review artists are the one asset that exists in every community artists drive foot traffic and help the economy just like other sectors and artists do something that other sectors don't do as well they drive stable communities through community attachment social cohesion and civic engagement plus they're fun but you've got to be asking yourself does this actually work I mean can artists literally shape the social physical and economic character of a place you bet just visit Providence Rhode Island during one of their water fires or go down to Miami and take a walk through the Wynwood Arts District pretty much any day of the week or better yet stay right here in Hudson and wait for December when it's their annual winter walk artists not only can help shape the social physical and economic future of places we need them to why because without the arts community planning and development is just going to focus on building beds and baths but we deserve more we need more the time has come to add artists to Community Development and make it bed bath and beyond thank you very much

3 thoughts on “The arts in community planning and development | Jamie Bennett | TEDxHudson

  1. Jamie is a leader, an inspiring speaker and he nails it. The arts count. Our lives would be bereft without them. We are all better off with them and with Jamie as an advocate.

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