Culture Sustaining Arts Economies
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Type of Work89 pages
ProgramMA in Cultural Sustainability
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arts and tourism
Cultural sustainability -- Capstone (Graduate)
Since the 1980s cities across the United States have discovered the potential of using art as an economic driver for community development. In fact, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks cultural commodities and found that arts and cultural production accounted for $877.8B of gross domestic product in 2017. Because cultural industries and the economy are intertwined, any serious economic development work must incorporate culture as an asset to be identified and strengthened. A review of arts economy reports shows that current indicators to define economic impact include quantitative data such as number of full-time jobs, dollars spent in the arts and tourism industries, household income, and local and state revenues. However, no current assessment tool exists that uses a cultural sustainability lens to measure a community’s economic viability. Nor do current tools include independent artist perspectives in their assessments. The risk in only relying on myopic quantitative data is that it can negatively reinforce data and perspectives that are decidedly wealthy and white. This capstone explores the inequity of arts economy tools in assessing the vitality of the arts in communities with fewer financial resources. One such place is Camden, New Jersey, a post-industrial town described as a city “past the point of no return”. Communities like Camden that seek to understand and contextualize the lived experience of artists can begin to engage their own neighborhoods with a simple question: In what ways are the arts and artists here thriving? Using a black feminist epistemology from Patricia Hill Collins, this paper uses personal reflexivity to offer a new tool called Culture Sustaining Arts Economies (CSAE). CSAE identifies gaps in economic indicators where culture is omitted but also highlights the places where culturally-specific indicators should be