Tag Archives: recommendations for pro-arts planning

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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Markusen, A. (2004). The distinctive city: Evidence from artists and occupational profiles. University of Minnesota: Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.

Ann Markusen, PhD in Economics from Michigan State University, is Professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis’ Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and Director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics. She is considered one of the foremost authorities on “creative placemaking” and has also taught at Rutgers, Northwestern, Berkeley, and the University of Colorado.

Tracking occupations in American cities, Markusen makes discoveries about the “distinctive” city, and the occupational and lifestyle trends of various artists, and gives recommendations for cities to articulate the arts to distinguish themselves from other municipalities.

Beginning with discoveries, cities “have not resurged at the expense of other second tier cities” (4) in recent decades. Some occupations trend toward major metros, others second-tier, others still avoid the second-tier, opting for cities bigger and smaller. A city’s size does not dictate the degree to which its economy is specialized or hierarchical, but distinctiveness does appear to be on the rise.

To study change over time, Markusen used the “occupational advantage” (7) measure in California cities and discovered the cities are becoming increasingly specialized. Regarding the artistic advantage: in the 1990s, artists showed a reversal in the decentralization trend, particularly in LA, New York, and San Francisco.

Reasons for the concentration of artists in these and other cities:

  1. sheer size, though “only at very high thresholds does the demand for elite arts activities show sensitivities to size of place” (11);
  2. demand might be higher in the traditionally elite cities because of the concentration of disposable income;
  3. the media and advertising industries are in larger cities and have a high demand for artistic labor pools;
  4. arts lure tourism dollars;
  5. cross-pollination and synergies across the various art practices;
  6. artists themselves are drawn to cultural amenities; and
  7. artists patronize other artistic works.

And now the factors that draw artists away from large cities to smaller ones:

  1. different types of artists prefer different locales;
  2. as they’re often self-employed, they are freer to move from city to city;
  3. their presence in a city is linked to the host-city’s sectoral strength;
  4. self-employment varies considerably across regions;
  5. because they’re often self-employed and “footloose,” artists are “paradoxically, capable of acting as stabilizers in a regional workforce” (18), often staying where they are and producing at the same frequency.


  1. The notion that a city’s sheer size or personal wealth equates to artistic competence is unsupported.
  2. Sectoral strengths are linked to artistic clusters and migration patterns.
  3. Higher cost of living matters sometimes, sometimes not, in dissuading artistic presence.

So what can cities do to cultivate their distinctiveness? Cities should:

  1. play to their current strengths,
  2. “make more modest [arts] investments in smaller distinctive neighborhood-based arts complexes that will stabilize communities, home-grow artists, and create that…urban mosaic” (21);
  3. target the sectors that play up the distinctiveness;
  4. lure artists through amenities, arts education, social/housing benefits;
  5. subsidize artists’ spaces;
  6. link artists to each other; and
  7. rethink current arts investment strategies (read, megaprojects).

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Currid, E. (2007). How art and culture happen in New York. _Journal of the American Planning Association_. 73(4).

Using recent scholarship on the great value creative capital provides to postindustrial economies (Florida, 220; Lloyd, 2006; Markusen & Schrock, 2006) as her starting point, Currid explores the exact mechanism by which the creative industries operate and thrive in New York. Subsequent to 80 in-depth interviews with cultural producers and gatekeepers found primarily through snowballing, Currid determined that “being there” matters in material ways. Attendance at nighttime and industry events increases opportunities for collaboration with other artists, obtaining work, and establishing support systems.

Social network further provides artists with “peer review,” “flexible career paths,” additional forums for selling their artwork, and straight-up inspiration. Finally, locating in New York offers easier access to others, media promotion outlets, and association with the New York brand.

Currid notes the system’s darker side comprises an overemphasis on socialization, corruption in the approbation and promotion process, a skewed expectation of success subsequent to media presence, a too-close link between creativity and commerce, and the increased expectation of advanced degrees among artists.

Her recommendations are of the stand-aside variety: allow cultural producers to form their own creative spaces, create pro-cultural nightlife zones, provide low-cost housing in creative communities as sanctuaries in likely-to-gentrify neighborhoods (Currid doesn’t say this here, but artists are directly linked with the gentrification of their chosen neighborhoods), and support the cultural economy as a whole both through pro-work grantmaking and punishing industry transgressions.

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Currid, E. (2007). _The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City_. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, PhD Urban Planning from Columbia, is Associate Professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development, University of Southern California. Her expertise is in economic development, cultural economy, social networks, and urban growth.

In a book that aims to find out how New York’s vital (much more so than the FIRE industries) creative sector operates, Currid provides us four lessons about arts and culture: (1) they matter to economic develpment, (2)  work within social milieus, (3) work best when densest, and (4) “work as a unified whole” (184).

She provides a history of the city’s meteoric rise to global cultural capital and establishes that its real distinction as a global city rests on its creativity; moreover, that the region has managed to build on and expand its global advantage. This primacy has been achieved and is maintained by the cultural industries “scene,” the “very work oriented” (von Furstenberg, as cited on 79) social world that is not a “spillover” or byproduct of the creative sector’s operations, but the actual system wherein nightlife locales act as cultural producers’ workplaces.

Creative exchange locations, “nodes,” operate on two levels. They are spaces for transmission/presentation of the work and as spaces for the creative subcultures to gather and trade ideas and, when lucky, get gatekeepers’ favorable attention. Being social, cultural producers circulate ideas, attribute value to goods and services, and allocate jobs and skills through the economy.

The cultural economy upholds: (1) the unique and synergistic interrelations between the various cultural industries, (2) that its collaboration and shared risk promotes cultural goods’ commodification in the global market, and (3) “its diverse process by which creative goods are reviewed and valued” (115). This review process itself exhibits three phenomena: creative goods are valorized by gatekeepers (Becker’s [1984] aestheticians), broadly believed to have the power to attribute worth; attainment of success is generally linked to ongoing credibility, again something bestowed by gatekeepers; and both valorization and credibility are linked to having informal, weak social ties, themselves not necessarily tied to one’s artistic ability.

Finally, Currid asserts that if NYC policymakers recognize the power of the scene and its requisite geographical clustering, they should abandon the clumsy and counter-productive policies in favor of: accrediting creativity, supporting where creativity happens, giving thoughtful tax incentives and public funding, and rethinking the current artists-in-residence policy.

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