Across the country, cities are seeking ways to stimulate the economy, engage new residents, and restore robust cosmopolitan life. For me, one of the best ways to do this is through contemporary art. When we think about urban environments impacted by art and artists, what comes to mind? Chelsea on Manhattan’s West Side, the West Loop in Chicago, and Chinatown or Mid-Wilshire in Los Angeles. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the primary “drivers” of visitors and new businesses, and one of the principal images these places convey, is contemporary art.
As a member of Baltimore’s rich collective of contemporary arts resources, organizations, and “fans,” I see the exciting role that art and culture take in our community every day, and the intrinsic value it brings to our lives. I am excited by the countless emerging and well-established venues, performances, and organizations offering contemporary art in Baltimore. I am encouraged by what it means for our community. Contemporary art encourages economic development, social diversity, a positive image, and a healthy, thriving city.
Contemporary art is by nature provocative and cutting-edge. It inspires us and gets us to question, explore, think, and exchange ideas. This work is thought provoking and stimulating—adding an unexpected element to the urban experience (and often explaining the urban experience).
This energy and enthusiasm is quick to take hold. It attracts people—audiences to a performance, visitors to a gallery. As more people visit a community and more frequently, there is momentum. People stay for dinner, or return to visit local shops. Sales result in tax revenue, which support the services that benefit our entire city and all its residents.
And those that want to make this energy part of their daily lives choose to live in these 24-hour neighborhoods, being a catalyst of residential development, creating permanent anchors for new businesses to grow and creating a defined sense of place.
Who are these “people?” They are artists and community activists, “urban pioneers,” and advocates, people willing to make an investment in their communities and be part of its transformation. They are passionate, aware, motivated, and involved. These are the people who are settling in cultural areas like our burgeoning Station North and in South Baltimore neighborhoods, enlivening depressed areas to create rich, diverse communities. Sound like good neighbors to me.
Thriving cultural centers contribute to a city’s overall identity. They are indication that a city is hip, fun, and smart—that you want to be here. It elevates a city from a place, to a desired destination, attracting visitors from the suburbs and surrounding region.
Local venues for contemporary art across the country have set the foundation. They enrich millions of lives through community outreach, innovative public programming, inspiring exhibitions, and performances. As we explore “what’s next,” let’s foster a strong, growing and innovative contemporary art community as a fixture in our future.