New Post at Streets.mn: Vibrancy is for People

I just put up a spur of the moment reaction post at Streets.mn, taking Thomas Frank to task a bit for his anti-public art diatribe. To be frank, Frank has been annoying me. I unfairly blame him for the long slow demise of Harper's, and I'm baffled at his scapegoating artists for the even longer slower demise of the industrial Midwest. Here's my favorite highlight:
“Vibrant” joins a long list of empty planning jargon that includes “vitality,” “sustainabiltiy,”  “best practices,”  and (my doggerel champion) “stakeholder.” Gertrude Stein demonstrated long ago any word repeated enough times reduces to noise, and vibrancy is no exception. The world itself seems specially dumbing — vibrant, vibrant, vibrant — the dull notes of ‘v’ and ‘b’ thudding on the ears like a rubber drainplug. 

If midwestern cities like Ackron or St Paul are going to blow huge sums of money on mediocre economic redevelopment schemes -- and believe me, they will -- I'd much rather they spent the money on museums, street festivals, and grassroots arts programs than the typical placebos like sports arenas and casinos. Of all the possible boondoggles, supporting arts are probably one of the better choices you can make. It's not going to bring back the rubber industry, but at least you'll have people collecting old tires and making sculptural crap.


Here's a picture of the escalator to nowhere:

[Springfield is in Missouri, right?]


Spanish prof said...

Great rebuttal. I live in one of the Midwest cities mentioned, and while mediocre public art is happening, nobody in good faith can say that it is the only scheme planned for urban Developement. I'm working on my own rant against that article, that annoyed me to no end.

Margy Waller said...

In all of the debate about the value of vibrancy -- and creative placemaking -- there's a lot of confusion about the benefits. Your title nails it. It's not (only) about the dollars and cents case -- it's the experience! That is: arts create places people value -- and memories. Dance, festivals, music, serendipitous art = what makes a place people want to be and visit.

Communicating for Broad Support: The Arts Ripple Effect.