Other efforts included the targeted creation of affordable spaces. A partnership between Hong Kong’s district councils and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council is working to convert a school into an arts center replete with rentable studios and music practice rooms. San Francisco has seen the use of Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), a collaborative public-private partnership that buys and leases property at below-market rates to nonprofit arts organizations. It has turned to purchasing properties not publicly listed to avoid the fierce competition, and the program plans to sustain itself long-term by offering tax deductions to CAST investors while expanding to places like Oakland.
And city planners, who see creativity as something of a commodity, are increasingly incorporating art and culture in plans for the infrastructure of cityscapes. Most cities, Owens explained, “realize they need to develop dynamic, interesting neighborhoods.”
Owens noted that the case studies revealed that each city faces its own challenges, so it’s up to each city to adopt the report’s suggestions in ways that work for them. The process, Owens noted, won’t be an easy one. The interests of city planners, government groups, private developers, and artists don’t always align. And many of the cities included in the report are only continuing to get more expensive.
Along with threatening artists, rising rents in more affordable neighborhoods also surface complex issues around racial and economic inequality. According to urbanist Richard Florida, it is low-income people with the least options—not the artists or middle-class professionals—who are hit hardest when affordable communities experience an influx of more well-heeled residents. Owens acceded that in some cases, previous residents don’t feel the positive effects of the influx newcomers and lucrative economies they bring.
He also highlighted the importance of maintaining diversity in the midst of extreme growth in population and wealth in cities across the globe. The case studies outline different strategies to engage communities in the arts and provide greater access to city or private resources for artists and other creatives.
In parts of Istanbul and Vienna, in particular, only certain neighborhoods reap the benefits of lucrative economies while others are left out. Some projects have endeavored to address the issue by bringing art to an area in dialogue with the community. To avoid the parable of prescribing what an area “needs,” they have instead sought to engage residents and include them in the creation of novel art spaces and programs. Design Atelier Kartal (TAK Kartal), which runs the Corner Borders program in Istanbul, makes an open call to the public to submit project proposals, and the neighborhood elects one to fund and bring to life.
In a similar attempt to give residents a say in development in their neighborhoods, F23.wir.fabriken in District 23 of Vienna holds children’s programs, a local farmer’s market, urban gardening, and workshops for refugees living there. In its first 18 months, it has reportedly seen over 40,000 visitors for events and been well-received by the local community. The program is but one example of how the right level of collaboration between residents, artists, and both private and government financing can not only help art and culture, but also a city and community as a whole.