Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Does your city need to create an art revolution?

How to start an art revolution is a manifesto for Boston in today's Boston Globe by Dushko Petrovich.
The city isn’t exactly known for its boisterous and vital art scene, but Boston’s big cultural secret is that it has all the elements to build something genuinely important in the art world, and genuinely different. Boston could become the place where America’s most exciting young artists converge.
Key points he makes are:
  • Boston has a wealth of resources which aren't being used to best effect as a magnet and springboard for transforming the arts economy
  • the European model of art development in an economic context offers scope to improve the status of Boston
That alternative would be a community more on a European model, where universities, museums, and other public institutions — including the government, which can help with health care and rent stabilization — combine to encourage a different, less market-dependent approach to creating art.
  • Boston could and should "a well-considered sanctuary for artists to develop at a less frenzied pace, carefully harnessing the city’s wealth of tradition to the perennial strength of its youth."
  • Harvard needs to develop a fine art degree and itself as a centre of excellence for fine art
  • There need to be more galleries with a creative open door approach, as opposed to the traditional model, to enable young artists to get off the ground.
This sparked off a few notions that I decided to write about today - and I've also got some QUESTIONS AT THE END for you.

Recession and Transformation

The recession has hit galleries hard. Many have gone under, while others continue to be precarious and struggle.

At the same time I've been looking at how major museums and art galleries have the potential to create a major economic benefit within a city in terms of the people they attarct - who of course all spend money in one way or another.

I've also been particularly impressed recently to find that London enjoys an unparalled position in the world in terms of being home to many great art museums and galleries and places where major exhibitions are shown. At the same time I was really surprised that more USA cities did not feature as homes to the Top 10 art galleries and museums.

The Tate in London (Tate Modern and Tate Britain combined) is way out in front in terms of being the number one museum in the UK. It had 6,235,536 visitors in 2008/9 (that's 6.2 MILLION visitors - just in case you missed the commas).

As an individual museum, Tate Modern is #4 in the world in terms of visitor numbers
In just eight years Tate Modern has changed London and revitalised the South Bank of the Thames.
Transforming Tate Modern
At the moment Tate Modern is planning a major transformation and an expansion of its building to optimise its use of space on its site and take care of the ever increasing number of visitors.

It's certainly the case that, combined with the Millenium Bridge which now provides ready access from the City, the creation of Tate Modern has helped to transform the South Bank of the Thames east of the National Theatre and west of London Bridge.
  • Tate Modern is one of the UK's top three tourist attractions
  • Two million people have taken part in Tate Modern's education programmes
  • Tate Modern generates £100m in economic benefits to London annually
  • Tate Modern has generated 4,000 new jobs, mostly in the Southwark area
  • Time Out readers nominated Tate Modern as their favourite London building
  • 60% of visitors to Tate Modern are under 35
Transforming Tate Modern
Its expansion will provide a magnet for yet more artistic development (although how well this will be managed is another matter!).

What's important though is the huge impact that a major museum can have on the way both central and local government looks at art and its capacity to be a regenerative force for good.

Tate Modern People
11.5" x 8.5", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Questions for you

  1. Could your local city (or town) do more to promote the visual arts economy?
  2. What needs to be transformed?
  3. Who needs to do what to transform your town - with the help of art and artists?
  4. What sort of activities might generate residents and/or visitors who spend money and create jobs and economic benefits for the local community?
The readers of my blog have a great track record in coming up with thoughtful responses - from the simple point to the complex response. I look forward to reading them all - bring it on!

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