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.