Balancing Arts and Development: The Story of Hollywood, Florida's ArtsPark

By Brien, Sidney | Public Management, May 2005 | Go to article overview

Balancing Arts and Development: The Story of Hollywood, Florida's ArtsPark


Brien, Sidney, Public Management


What most people refer to as "the arts"--a catchall term if ever there was one--is really an ecology too varied and complex to cover with a single label or contain in a single structure. Artistic endeavor has expanded to such a degree that the class of trained, professional artists in the visual and performing arts disciplines is the largest in world history. What was once the province of an educated (some would say elite) consumer is now available to everyone nearly all of the time, or so it seems.

Whether your preference is for Aida or for salsa lessons, a majority of local governments make a sampling of live performances and cultural activities available at various price points. Although the word "culture" has had its meaning blurred since it's been coopted by partisan rhetoric, most civic leaders and citizens themselves sincerely believe in the uplifting contribution of culture to community life. "Culture" has come to imply the values and experiences we share with our neighbors. Although the terms are elusive, few people would dispute that creativity is the essence of innovation and a chief source of economic prosperity.

ORGANIC GROWTH

Creativity and the arts have become synonymous with quality of life. For more than 50 years, civic leaders have attempted to harness the power of creativity and the enthusiasm of audiences to make every locality, regardless of size, a world-class one. Toward that end, private philanthropists, investors, and local governments have agreed that every community requires its own symphony, ballet company, or opera house and at least one museum.

The surge to support traditional fine arts, or what some refer to as the "chandelier" arts, has long since resulted in a building craze intended to revitalize neighborhoods and create authentic urban experiences. Politicians, real estate developers, and business and opinion leaders have aligned themselves around redevelopment plans that featured such cultural anchors as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles or the Sydney Opera House.

In localities large and small, many still argue that a performing arts center (PAC) complex is necessary to achieve the vision of a vital metropolis. The hope of many advocates is summed up in the famous line from the movie "Field of Dreams": "If you build it, they will come." Too often, however, the push for a PAC is inorganic, a magic-bullet solution to raise property values and spur the economic development of dried-up urban cores.

The drive toward building these facilities has often failed to take into account the fledgling state of a local artistic community: a small philanthropic stratum too stretched to support every new venture, as well as high-priced tickets that exclude mainstream audiences. An explosion of big buildings simply couldn't be maintained by hard-pressed cultural institutions and as-yet-undeveloped audiences that would take at least another generation to mature.

Hardly a day passes without a news story announcing cutbacks, the threat of closings, and the uphill battle to maintain "chandelier art" venues across the country. Plans for museum additions have been shelved, Lincoln Center in New York City continues to struggle to upgrade its outdated facilities, and Miami's own PAC is facing major construction delays, with the price tag for the project rising from $250 million to $400 million.

FINDING THE RIGHT SCALE

Without trying to be something they are not, places like Hollywood, Florida, have the chance to get it right. A coastal city of 143,000, Hollywood has nurtured the organic growth of an existing community of artists and presenting organizations, and it will encourage its citizens to use an "ArtsPark" in Young Circle, an 11-acre site in the center of its downtown redevelopment area that is planned to open in 2005.

The ArtsPark is a "big green circle with a soul." The ArtsPark is a thoughtful and strategic response to every key stakeholder in the city, including businesses, real estate developers, the growing arts sector, and the general public. …

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