Tag Archives: artist as useful labor

Markusen, A. and Schrock, G. (2006). The artistic dividend: urban artistic specialization and economic development implications. _Urban Studies_, 43(10):1661.

Greg Schrock, PhD, Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Chicago, is Assistant Professor at Portland State University. His research focuses on the intersection of regional economies and local labor markets, and how economic and workforce development initiatives can promote social equity and upward mobility in low-wage sectors.

With this article, the authors aim to reconceptualize the additional, positive impact of artists on their cities that would not otherwise occur without them: the “artistic dividend.” Thus far, their contributions have been understated because current methodologies ignore critical improvements artists bring to manufacturing facilities, cross-fertilization into other sectors and artistic practices, or the fact that “regional consumption of the arts may be import-substituting, as consumers prefer to spend on performances and artwork rather than spending at shopping malls full of imports” (1662).

Artists “heavily patronize other artists’ work and as so much of this work is labor-intensive, the multiplier effect of local arts consumption maybe higher than expected” (ibid).

There are two forms of dividends: first, current income streams within the market and second, “returns to the region as a whole on past investments” (ibid), which echo Markusen’s (2004) “distinctive city” findings about artist distribution among cities. They operationalize the artistic dividend occupationally, and look at individuals who self identify as artists.

So how and where are artists locating themselves at the start of the 21st century? Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco lead the pack, having highly skewed location quotients (particularly in performing arts), believed to be linked with: increases in arts funding, emphasis on tourism, and the pursuit of cultural capital by city leadership.

At the same time, these cities reversed the trend of decentralization, with artistic communities reconvening in LA, New York, and San Francisco in the 90s, so much so that LA overtook the highest-concentration-of-artists mantle from New York. Artists did flock to other second-tier cities, making their populations more secure. Migration is affected by the artists’ decision about where they want to live and work, but work is not the deciding factor.

Without question, artists cluster by their particular practice. For example, designers and architects are more likely to have full-time professional occupations in their field. New York, LA, and San Francisco are home to the largest concentrations of designers but not architects. Because the latter’s work is so cooperative, they cluster in metro areas in general. Advertising industries are correlated with large pools of artistic groups, but Markusen and Schrock demurred to make claims about direction of causality. Artists, especially writers, are self-employed in varying patterns; therefore policymakers should look at more information than just arts organization impact studies.

The authors conclude with the following policy recommendations. Cities should: (1) support artists’ centers, (2) link resident artists with their corporate communities not for philanthropy but product development purposes, (3) improve their decision-making processes for arts funding, and (4) make more granular, strategic investments.

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LLoyd, R. (2005). 2005. _Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City_. New York and London: Routledge.

In this book-sized expansion of his Wicker Park case study, Lloyd goes a bit deeper into the qualitative analysis, particularly in his interviews, of the neo-bohemian lifestyle, and expands on his “artist as useful labor” theory.

“…neo-bohemia is not a reified natural area but rather a mode of contingent and embedded spatial practices” (245).

Constituent to this theory is the fact that neo-bohemias are antithetical to David Brooks’ (2001) “bourgeois bohemians,” or “BoBos,” whose consumer practices only track with postindustrial neoliberal capitalism practices. Instead, neo-bohemians exhibit an “elective affinity” (241) between their artistic, do-it-yourself ethos and neoliberal capitalism’s entrepreneurial impulses. The artist, then, is useful labor in this Internet-based, image-conscious economy. Just as neo-bohemia’s residents understand themselves through identification in and with their communities, and their own “subcultural capital” (243) provides them access to status and money, art has become the “MacGuffin for [contemporary] postindustrial economic activities” (244).

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Lloyd, R. (2004). The neighborhood in cultural production: Material and symbolic resources in the new bohemia. _City & Community_, 3(4): 343–372.

Using Wicker Park as a case study, Lloyd asks, what benefits exist in creative neighborhoods to artists? And how “does the space of neo-bohemia operate in the organization and deployment of labor power?” (345). Neo-bohemias are to Lloyd more important in the transition into the postmodern condition than were the Murgerian (1851) bohemias of modernity.

Neo-bohemias take acute advantage of post-industrial spaces and neighborhoods, the implications of which are pronounced. The neo-bohemia is not a rejection or negation of capitalism but magnifies capital interests (as exemplified in gentrification), and the development and agglomeration of new industries, many digital media. Creative industry members collaborate and cluster, thus largely bearing the cost of their own production. Their local ecology draws together residence, work, and showroom/performance spaces, creating manifest and identifiable settings for identification by “extra-local corporate interest, who recruit talent and co-opt cultural productions from these settings at their discretion” (348).

Lloyd identifies material benefits (e.g. cheap live/work space, creative exposure, local/flexible/desirable employment) and symbolic supports (e.g. identification as artist). However, there are conflicts and contradictions. Wicker Park is not like Park and Burgess’ (1921) community ecology because it’s deeply embedded in the mode of capitalist production, and the competitive dynamics are certainly shaped by forces of global capital accumulation. Moreover, gentrification may increase the cost of living, but that contributes to the creation of the new and desirable employment opportunities. Per Irwin (1977), some have to move out: “subcultural articulations have limited ‘carrying capacities’ that can be overwhelmed by an access of participants clamoring for inclusion” (367). Of note: those most upset about gentrification were the newest arrivals to the neighborhood (Huebner, 1994), illustrating Rosaldo’s (1989) “imperialist nostalgia.”

Finally, the underlying contradiction. For Logan and Molotch (1987 [2007 in this blog]), the growth machine players have no local interests. Theirs are telegraphed, profits-only considerations of entrepreneurs and the like. Here, the entrepreneur is also a resident.

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Lloyd, R. (2002). Neo-bohemia: Art and neighborhood redevelopment in Chicago. _Journal of Urban Affairs_, 24(5): 517-532.

Richard Lloyd, PhD Sociology University of Chicago, is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University. His areas of expertise are urban sociology, sociology of culture, social theory, sociology of art, work and occupations, social change, and political sociology.

This article is Lloyd’s first publication from his ethnographic study of Chicago’s alternative enclave, Wicker Park, from 1999-2001, from which he developed the concept of the “neo-bohemia.” Spending those two years as participant observer, attending a wide range of events, and conducting long, open-ended interviews with approximately three dozen informants, Lloyd determined that the socio-spatial reformations within neo-bohemias belie much postmodern theory regarding the organization of the city, the spectacular (Sorkin, 1992) and the decentralized (Soja, 1989).

“The city remains a place where people actually live, not just visit” (519).

Therefore, Lloyd suggests, instead of conceiving culture as a strictly consumable commodity, we should start to investigate “the new intersections of consumption and production in consumption and production in urban space” (ibid).

The three trends he observes in Wicker Park (and expands upon in his 2004 paper “The Neighborhood in Cultural Production: Material and Symbolic Resources in the New Bohemia”):

  1. the displacement of manufacturing and adaptive reuse;
  2. the intensifying commodification of culture, produced and consumed locally, as well as exported; and
  3. the increasing valorization of artists’ human capital.

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