Why Cities Need Artists

Artists create visual images which powerfully affect how residents and others feel about their cities.

Despite the slump in our economy, in spite of a tough market and depressed consumers, and in the face of mounting odds, artists are more needed than ever as primary agents of positive and lasting cultural change. They step in to provide seeds of revitalization, and make a huge difference in the perception of  residents and visitors.

As reported in USA Today and quoted by well-respected artist and blogger Lori McNee:

“It is interesting to note that UN demographers project that as the Earth’s population grows, more people will live in cities. In 1950, only 28.8% of the world’s population lived in urban areas, and now over 50% are urban dwellers. The United Nations projects that almost 69% will live in cities by 2050, when the population is expected to reach 9.3 billion. The number of people who live in cities by then will almost equal today’s world population!”

How are those cities to grow and claim or reclaim their identities and evolve culturally? How do residents view their hometowns?  Committed people working in the arts, whether performing, musical or visual, are the trailblazers integral to bringing blighted urban areas back from the edge.

Witness how artists and thinkers in the rust belt city of Syracuse, New York took action to redefine a city rocked by industries in decline:

A LOVE LETTER TO SYRACUSE from samuel j macon on Vimeo.

A foundation of collaboration is key in planning  and building a creative community. City planners, advisors, politicians, zoning board members, and artists work together, often with consultants who help develop a vision, execute it and use strategies to maintain the momentum.

Making a major public impact through art and performance is a jumpstart to revitalization. Artists open studios and gallery spaces in abandoned or vacant industrial buildings and retail stores, making a statement and defining the intention of a city poised for growth. City planners and leaders can deliberately start and fuel a renaissance, but creatives of all types are the vehicles through which this happens. They provide the excitement and the images that appeal, attract and emotionally connect with city residents.

As a synergy develops around an art renaissance, it uplifts the local population, and provides a draw to others who want to come and be a part of it. The existence of a vibrant arts district can deeply affect tourism, bring jobs to related sectors such as restaurants, hotels, museums, and many other industries which derive their income from this influx, who owe their existence to the work of pioneering artist “first responders.”

People are moved by and react to images and experiences that reach them emotionally, and artists are masters at touching the hearts and minds of their audience. Public murals, festivals, and art spaces draw crowds. Local pride in an arts district builds hope and encourages tourism. Once declining areas become bright and energized.  Some even become meccas for art lovers everywhere.

It begins with a creative spark, a willingness to give and share, and hard work. Artists are skilled in these things. They are powerful agents of change in a world which needs connection and strong communities to thrive.


Image courtesy American Style Magazine.

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  1. Can I get an “Amen”?!!

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