Fritzie -

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What role should arts institutions have in urban areas?

Urban areas often contain galleries, museums, colleges and universities, arts schools, studios, art centers, and other forms of ensembles of practioners of the arts. These institutions vary in how, and how much, they interact with and engage in the communities within which they are set.
As we envision within City 2.0, the TEDPrize winner, or in our view of what we want our cities to be like in, say, fifty years, what novel roles can these institutions play? Do these new or expanded roles require changes in how these institutions plan their programming, either as individual institutions or in hybrid forms or collaborations?

  • Apr 3 2012: Urban areas, particularly Chicago, have neighborhoods with drastic wealth disparity. These neighborhoods are relatively segregated into Caucasian, African American, Latino, and Asian. I began my student teaching (8th grade science) in a Chicago Public School early August on the west side (Austin community).

    One of the many realizations I came across , from personal experiences and interaction in the community, was that many of the students had never/rarely left their neighborhood, let alone go downtown to visit/explore these fine arts institutions (On a field trip a student told me that was his first time downtown). The school infrequently has library/music class and does not have an art class. School is only core subjects.

    Visiting these types of institutions and practicing these many arts from childhood played an integral part in my evolution as a person, both mentally (Expanded view of what knowledge is/freedom for nontraditional knowledge exploration) and physically (Dexterity, Penmanship, etc).

    Ideally and realistically in 50 years... Every citizen has regular exposure to these foundation-forming institutions. This needs to happen via education starting in PreK going through high school. Doing this will expand opportunities for students by encouraging interdisciplinary thought and integrating traditional schools of knowledge to real life/non-traditional inquiries/situations/interests/strengths.

    Many people's strengths lie in these fine arts and providing the necessary tool's to explore and bridge the relevance of school to personal interests/real-life will yield scholars.
    In order to better ourselves as a community of educated and well-rounded citizens these arts institutions should play a large role in both urban and suburban neighborhoods, and start at a young age. To produce more art, scholars, musicians, etc. we need to open these doors to all knowledge seekers.

    Culturally relevant education/programming is critical for initial engagement and...
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      Apr 3 2012: I worked for a city development programme in Germany - through artists and art institutions. Mostly these cities have quarters with high unemployment (15 - 18%) and high migration (25 - 35%) - in a post-industrial region which could not built new industries like steel and coal. Just these problem quarters were the ones which attracted galleries and cinema and dance companies - strangely enough, but minus and minus add to a surplus and value added.

      I could not agree more as you wrote - adding formal to informal education; traditional to non-traditional knowledge - and I would add: top down city policy with crowd-sourced initiatives of locals.

      Here you can find the reports and films we did within the last two years on the projects in 7 cities:
      http://www.labkultur.tv/en/cultureincentive
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        Apr 3 2012: Bernd, I have not yet had the chance to follow the link to your urban projects, but where I live artists have been using space that building owners cannot rent out (because of the economy) for temporary installations. It prevents the area from looking blighted, adds color and interest, and gives the artists exposure.
        Now I followed the link. What a great resource! Thank you.
      • Apr 4 2012: Bernd,

        I read and watched through labkultur, it is great. Chicago would be an ideal place for this.

        Danke,

        Alex
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      Apr 3 2012: Alex, as you work in Chicago, are you familiar with what Theaster Gates is trying to do? That might be in Hyde Park, but I am not sure.
      Could you see some sort of outreach to connect students to the activities of arts institutions even if they cannot practically speaking leave their neighborhoods easily?
  • Mar 26 2012: Arts institutions in urban areas should pay money for the works of living artists and not spend any money at all on the works of dead artists.
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    Apr 4 2012: I think it's a delightful idea, though it would be tricky to "scale up."
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    Apr 4 2012: Some ideas are radical and not practical - but they might give some impulses for novel roles !
    Did you ever woke up in an art exhibition?

    Here a project in Rotterdam - http://bit.ly/HmOvcX
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    Apr 4 2012: I am particularly interested in ideas for how art institutions can sustain engagement of populations that tend to be marginalized. Often I believe institutions work through one time outreach efforts that expose people to things but don't promote sustained involvement. My interest is less in engaging people in art per se than in the potential for using art as a vehicle and language for bringing people and their ideas more connection to the community as a diverse crossroads.I am less interested in one time statements than in an avenue for continuous exchange.
    • Apr 4 2012: Fritzie,

      Attempting to teach Science was a difficult challenge due to the complete disconnect between my students lives and the content. A student told me, "we don't do this kind of stuff Mr. P" .

      So...

      I attempted to integrate students, their community, their culture, and what they knew into my curriculum. It led to greatly increased and sustained engagement.

      Bringing me to my point...

      How much art was contributed from these marginalized cultures? Their history? Their present? If you cannot see and feel why something is important to you, why bother with it?
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        Apr 4 2012: During the European Capital of Culture in 2010 in the Ruhr Metropolis (5,5 Mio. people, 25 by 55 kilometers) we had a separate department for migration culture - however it was not about doing events for migrants. The aim was to start production process for culture - visual art, theater, dance asf - which include the migrants as a creative culture producers; then it is no problem to mobilize visitors, but more important: longer lasting engagement and continuous exchange.... (from consumer to producers: this principle seems to apply here also?)

        You could also say Involve the kids in football, then the parents will come - and meet parents from other parts of town which they would not meet otherwise.

        One concrete idea: Reframe a Sunday as an "my-museum-day". every visitors is allowed to choose a picture from the depot which he loves - and which he wants to show others. These pictures are then presented within four weeks in a new exhibition arrangement in the museum.

        The visitors turns to be a part-time-curator - and of course he will mobilize all kinds of friends and this quarter to come and see..... how he has influence where he is usually a no name....
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        Apr 4 2012: There has been a lot of artistic creation, I think, in marginalized cultures and in the ancestry of most people.
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    Apr 3 2012: Novel roles of institutions in 50 years - in urban areas - are depending also on the state of the city today. Is it currently in a boom phase like many cities in China? Then those cities will experience a down-sizing and crisis - all growth is in cycles... unfortunately. In 25 years the today succesful cities might be not attractive any longer - just as New York some 20 years ago.

    If you image an ideal world - without ups and downs in business - I would ask for a more 360degree, a more holistic approach of art institutions to urbanism and its people. Today in Germany an art centers is not focusing, not even considering the progress of its quarter - it is solely fixed on producing art quality exhibitions.

    On top: In a world wih more and more social devide and migration backgrounds the arts are not self-sufficient anylonger. If the art institution do not open up, large parts of society will not value and love the arts. In Germany we just have a public debate on closing more than 8.000 cultural institutions - to much of the same, the critics say.
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    Mar 29 2012: To better understand the relationship of art, math, science, etc ... Look up Phi - the golden number 1.618. The comments here range from sublime to ridiculous. The arts are a window to the past. We view them as a historical document. The masters recorded the events of the day in song, music, plays. paintings, sculptures, etc .... We should embrace them and appreciate the passion that went into the creation. All the best. Bob
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      Mar 29 2012: Robert, your argument is that the role of arts institutions should be, what? I know about phi, as I have been a math teacher for a long time, and I think the idea that we should all appreciate the arts is widespread, but I am not quite understanding what you are saying the role of arts institutions should be in urban areas in the years to come.
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    Mar 27 2012: Thank you, Ron, for sharing your experience. I will look forward to looking at your blog. Do you see possible outreach to adults as well, perhaps not by your arts organization but by some other? What might that look like?
    • Mar 28 2012: I think that the work the Kennedy Center is doing on what Michael Kaiser calls "remediation" for the young adults who had no in-school arts education in the late 80's and 90's is a model. You have a whole generation that has no ingrained understanding of what the arts do or why they might participate. So the K Center is reaching those groups that these folks (age 30-40 approx) ARE a part of - from golf clubs to book clubs to religious orgs) do frequent and participate in and then leveraging that participation over into arts participation. it's a tough trick- we try exactly the same strategy with adults often at Epic - but with enough focus it can work. THE PROBLEM is that among many urban working-class communities in this age range (K Center is admittedly targeting a demographic that typically has had high arts participation but doesn't at present - probably mostly upper middle class) there are basically NO extant social or civic gathering points to leverage. Very few participate in religion, there are few opportunities for political or civic gathering, and there are very few social opportunities to meet people you don't already know - no clubs. So this poses an additional challenge. One way to reach captive adults IS, in fact, through their kids performing in your show, and if you're clever, you can leverage that participation into future participation - if the space is going to be the same, the cost similar, same professional actors, etc...Anyway, it's hugely important, but I'm not sure I have the answers at present on how best to do it....
  • Mar 27 2012: I just wrote about this extensively on my blog, Theatrical Imperative, as a key "Producorial Responsibility" in the American theatre: http://wp.me/p28H2P-7s. In brief, I think that artistic producers in all fields have a moral responsibility to use their art and artists to intervene in a cycle I call the "cycle of diminishing potential" that circumscribes urban youth across our nation. I think the arts are uniquely poised to create engaging learning environments in-school that inculcate a level of rigor and challenge into Humanities classrooms that is desperately needed at the high school level in our urban schools. The arts, used properly, also can illuminate the relevance of curricular material to students' lives in ways that the traditional teaching model does not allow for. Finally, artists in schools are capable of building uniquely powerful relationships with youth that transcend the learning environments in which they first connect, and lead students to set the bar higher for themselves economically, socially, and in a civic sense.

    But to do this, the institutions are going to have to re-think their relationships with schools, deepening their level of commitment, and yes, risk. At Epic Theatre Ensemble, we only work with 4 key schools, but in each school we work with every student, every year, for 4 years. Two of our current schools have been our partners for ten years. We have an after school program at each school, Shakespeare Remix, and students have opportunities throughout the year to self-select to work directly with us in professional contexts for further training. The point is, we know the 2000 or so students we serve every year quite well. They see "their" artists in 4 Off-Broadway productions during their time and create at least 4 projects with them. The artists shepherd students all the way to and through college, most of whom choose not to join arts departments. Every institution could, and should, have this kind of deep impact.
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    Mar 26 2012: Santiago, I think you are right involving community people in art works sponsored by a museum has great potential. I am lucky to have that chance next month as part of a piece of public art.
  • Mar 26 2012: I don't really think this is a role art institutions should have (what I mean is I don't think it is their responsability) but it would be really cool if they would identify people in their surroundings (children, teenagers, adults) who are doing an art related activity and just invite them to help on a project (a project that would help them develop whatever they were doing that got them spoted, by this I mean their art related activity)

    Like I said, I don't see this as a responsability just think It'd be really cool if they did... get their community involved.
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    Mar 26 2012: I know, Janea, that when I worked in government we certainly had such events as part of retreats, not with museums or art schools facilitating but with people from organizations devoted specifically to facilitating such experiences. And I see that secondary schools also bring in such facilitators for "out of the box" field trips. I don't have personal experience working in the private sector (at least not in the last three decades), but I would have thought that the groups that facilitate such experiences for public sector clients must do most of their business with private sector clients.
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    Mar 26 2012: Personally, I'd like to see art institutions (which sounds like an oxymoron, by the way) engage with corporations by holding periodic "out-of-the box" field trips, during which a facilitator engages a group of corporate employees in a creative experience designed to help solve a problem the company is facing, or offer a brainstorming opportunity for a new project, etc.. Many company's cannot, or will not commit to inventing a corporate culture similar to Google. But they could take advantage of occasional excursions sponsored by art institutions, or funded by a city-wide creative "task force." Facilitators could write proposals and be chosen based on past successful transformational creative workshops or offerings. Funding could come from a combination of workshop fees from the corporations and tax dollars to boost the local economy.
  • Mar 25 2012: Cities have a high population density, struggle with meeting the basic waste disposal needs of citizens, and have many structures that sacrifice form for function that erode over time.

    Art institutions carry the responsibility of providing venues for masses to immerse themselves in various forms of artistic expression. They have to cater to many tastes, physical needs, and budgets of the city dwellers.

    Arts institutions provide bastions of unrestricted thought that on-lookers can experience and form their own visions of form, creativity, and thought based on sensory stimulation and personal experiences. There are opportunities at these places to meet other people and share feelings, thoughts, and interpretations of what the artists have created. Often, collections at these places bring together similar objects that together bound a subject, technique, period in history, of a set of shared experiences that people can visit as a tour, thereby seeing in a few minutes or hours what has taken months, years or a lifetime to put together.

    Assimilation, interpretation, and personal expression resulting from experiencing the various objects and forms of art is the seed corn for growing the next generation of creative thought. The ability of the next generation to take these experiences and memories and push the creativity envelope forward is part of the optimism and hope the current generation has for the next generation.
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      Mar 25 2012: Are you saying, then, Robert, that arts institutions should play the same role and have the same interface with the community in the future that they do right now? If their interface with the city should, rather, change, how would that be?
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    Mar 24 2012: Yes at their own cost,this way the institutions be it academic or communal will have full right upon a sucessive win to beautify said building over a certain period that can be changed over the period alotted to that winner,albeit the first winning design might be static but the winner might decide to change it in an evolutionary style though public input would benefit said artwork.I only meant that they can apply under citiy rights given to them withoput applying to city funding and being bogged down by beaurocracy.They could run a public contest on which idea will be best for which building but the artists gets to change it slowly to what ever they want, if they have the resources that can be raised from donation.it's a surface thought idea i had when i was reading your question.

    I had a strange vision of cuban colour everywhere.
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    Mar 24 2012: These institutions should be given the right by application to beautify public buildings at their own cost,that way art is always in the public eye rather than on our screens.
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      Mar 24 2012: I am not sure I understand, Ken. Can you elaborate? What do you mean by "given the right by application ...at their own cost?"