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Thursday 06.07.07

« First Thursday Picks June 2007 | Main | More Relevant than Rembrandt: Kehinde Wiley at PAM »

Arts = Prosperity?

RACC just released its latest Arts and Economic Prosperity report yesterday here. This is the third in the series, the second one took place in 2001.

Some interesting bits:

Arts organizations are seen as key for tourism and therefore aren't so "dependent" on the larger economic climate, instead they take an active driving role in the overall economic health of the city. I realize this is preaching to the choir but studies like this might get the Portland business community more behind arts funding. Things like TBA, The Affair at the Jupiter Hotel, the Portland Art Museum and all of the exhibitions that regularly take place here do have an effect,

The latest report puts the total economic contributions of arts activity at 318.26 million dollars, that is up from 262 million in 2001. That said, support for the arts is hardly keeping up with the massive increases in activity in Portland and in general the artists are completely under supported... there isn't even a decent suitcase fund for artists who wish to show elsewhere. Portland is doing well as a cultural incubator in spite of bass-akwards arts funding approaches... which plays into Comissioner Sam's talk tuesday... Im apparently jamming some guitar with Adams Saturday night for the the Bus Project "Wheelies" VIP event so this is all interesting.

I'll have a very comprehensive article on the Portland art and architectural climate/ecosystem on Monday, probably the most important piece of writing I've ever done.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 07, 2007 at 16:28 | Comments (10)


Thank you for bringing up the topic of the economics of art. I wanted to mention a few related points for consideration.

First, if you want to support the arts, Hire an artist. Have them paint your house, watch your kids, or do a drawing of your pet poodle. Commercial Art is how almost every artist of note - from daVinci to Goya, Hopper to Warhol - has supported themselves, while still being able to finance their own work. No business or organization (the WPA perhaps being an exception) comes close. I wonder what deKooning paintings were made from the proceeds of the cigarette ad he did.

Second, I would add that corporations already know the value of art. Take W+K for example. They've co-opted every style, culture, "look", and movement in the higher calling of sellings sneakers, junkfood, and whatever else to bovine America.

Or How about Boeing? Art has served them well in associating their corporation with the arts, while selling weapons the world over.

My question is this...which local art organization will be first in accepting a check from Precision Castparts, knowing that they're making lots of cash because of the Iraq war?

And don't even bother trying to "convice" people the value or art, or the arts in general. If they need convincing, you're already wasting your time.

C'mon, being an artist, especially a "fine artist", makes absolutely no economic sense. Producing objects that no one asked for. Artists are entitled to no more or less support than the unemployed plumber. If money's your concern, you're in the wrong field.

The late architect Sam Mockebee said that architects should be more than just "housepets for the rich". Artists should heed this advice.

Thank you for allowing me to comment.
Take care.

Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2007 12:45 PM

My comments were direced more towards the support structures for culture than the individual artists... but still there should be opportunities for artists when they are on the verge of really capitalizing on something major career-wise. It's cultural business sector development.

That is precisely where artists are underserved here... At the critical moment when they might be able to really make a name for themselves there is very little ivestment from the public sector... despite the fact that having an international artist develop or be based here helps build Portland's international esteem in a competitive global envionment.

So yes, you are half right. Being poor is a natural part of being an artist but it also is a debilitating distraction, especially once a reputation has taken off somewhat (at that point expecting to get a major piece for less than 5-10 grand is a kind of unfair). Artists deserve a fair take like anyone else... it is just a hell of a lot more difficult.

The truth is, artists' careers require investment just like anything else and Sean's ideas about hiring artists as nannies etc are right on... but it also requires outright investment sometimes too.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2007 01:38 PM

Is it really necessary to still be having this "poor artist" debate? Simply put, a good and resourceful artist will make a reasonably comfortable living. Granted "comfortable" can be subjective, but this is why most artists have a day job (such as teaching or writing). Additionally, the cultural centers of Portland could definitely be investing more in the future of Portland artists, and with how important the arts are to this city, the support still is virtually nonexistent in ratio to how much great art is being produced here.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2007 10:37 AM

agreed, the poor arist ebate isnt much of a debate.

The debate over supporting artists whose careers can help support the economy and prestige of Portland is an entirely different matter... as of right now Ive been asked 58 times whether I'm going to Sam Adam's thing on the 12th. Yes I am, but I think the city is past expecting action... it's demanding it....

I'm thinking that PORT will actually debate the merits of and support a candidate once they have all announced and laid out their positons.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2007 01:52 PM

agreed, the poor arist ebate isnt much of a debate.

The debate over supporting artists whose careers can help support the economy and prestige of Portland is an entirely different matter... as of right now Ive been asked 58 times whether I'm going to Sam Adam's thing on the 12th. Yes I am, but I think the city is past expecting action... it's demanding it....

I'm thinking that PORT will actually debate the merits of and support a candidate once they have all announced and laid out their positons.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2007 01:52 PM

I think demanding better support of the city sounds reasonable. I think Sam Adams would be the one to get it done, but actions speak louder than words, right? And supporting a certain candidate sounds like a great idea.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2007 09:35 AM

Its interesting to hear that PORT might head into the political arena.

May I please give a word of caution? In a contest between Politics and Art, Politics will win. Hands down. It's because Politics is about power. Art is powerful, but that's not what it's 'about'. Even when it seem an equal relationship, art will serve the political.

I would recommend steering clear of all that. An 'arts' candidate isn't necessarily the best candidate anyway. You're electing a person, not a policy. One quarter of the Nazi SS had liberal arts degrees. Headed by a vegitarian watercolorist.

Thank you (again) for allowing me to comment. I've enjoyed PORT's information, lucid writing, and readers commentary. Much appreciated.

Posted by: Sean Casey [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2007 08:29 PM

Well aware of that... I am a historian after all, but the reason that a site like PORT has to take a political stance is the creative community has become a core political issue. To step back would be irresponsible.

Also, I'm fairly certain no serious mayoral candidate in Portland will have any ties to the SS... Im not a fan of bringing Nazi's into the discussion.

Back on topic... I'm very cautious of politicians, especially ones who think they have answers in creative arenas...

I remember a few years ago when Liz Leach and I kinda ganged up on a local politician... they had implied that somehow their "title" imbued them with wisdom in the arts... we both kinda gave them the same look and a few choice words that amounted to, "look, you dont even know what you dont know!"

It's true though, Politicians can't seem elitist and expect to win a popular vote. Whereas, one can't hope to have really salient creative products without knowing the heirarchies and letting them allow the cream to rise to the top.

Creativity in the service of inclusive processes (mediocrity) is mostly just feel good "Soma". The stuff that lasts pisses off a lot of probably nice but less attuned people who come around after a while. World changing creativity requires aficianados... they spot trends while they develop and bring in critical support at key times.

Are the city of Portland, RACC, NWBCA and the Portland Business Alliance ready to acknowledge that connoisseuers are the city's best resource gate keepers (ie they bing the most aesthetic bang for buck)? Or is it all going to be some exhausing feel good mediocrity fest? A necessary balance can be found as not every project needs to rewrite the playbook, but some need to.

Portland often likes to talk creativity but besides a huge # of very talented individuals here the civic "talent support system" landscape resembles a small city of 150,000 not the metro hub of 2.1 million that it is.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2007 10:55 PM

Mr. Jahn:

I hope I didn't set off any radiation alarms in Sector B, but this seems the only way I can get in touch with you. It's about your participating in a piece I'm writing, and I could use your e-mail address to discuss further.

--- Peter Plagens

Posted by: slowbadhands [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2007 01:03 PM

Sector B and A and C are burning

I am not sure that the poor artist debate is ever going to be over

and to ask me to stop crying and
clean some rich b... 's house
is .....d
some how I create the best and most liberted art because I am not part of the established artist clonery who forces you to pump out the same style for years

but there is hope
by engaging in politics
by changing the rotten core from the insight
by getting into it
and eating out that evil worm
by holding people acountable
to their promises
if they decide to ride into carrier heaven
on our backs
buckle up
and lets see how long we can stay on

Never Mind

Posted by: Ray Solar [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2007 10:20 PM

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