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Working Paper: Arts Organizations and the Democratization of Space

Working Paper: Arts Organizations and the Democratization of Space

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Published by Patrick Slevin
Understanding the influence of physical space and urban design on the success of performing arts organizations
Understanding the influence of physical space and urban design on the success of performing arts organizations

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Patrick Slevin on Oct 16, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Patrick Slevin6 October 2010Urban Studies Thesis (Final Draft)Primary Advisers: Albert Hunter, PhD and Maud Hickey, PhDArts Organizations and the Democratization of Space
Understanding the influence of physical space and urban designon the success of performing arts organizations
This study investigates the connection between arts organizations and urban space. Thefocus is on small and medium-sized organizations, with total annual budgets under $750,000; asmall number of organizations with larger budgets have also been studied in order to providecomparison, as well as context for making broader claims about recent trends in cultural policyand urban planning. I have em
 ployed the category ‗Performing
Arts Organizatio
ns‘ to refer to
organizations whose primary interest is music or theatre, disciplines which act as the main areaof study. Even so, the conclusions made in this study can be applied to other performativedisciplines, including musical theatre and opera. The contents of this study can also be applied todigital media arts and visual arts; I have avoided directly studying the visual arts
includingpublic art and various forms of street art
since these disciplines have been studied morecompletely from an urban studies context since they have a stronger tendency to directly employthe urban environment in subject matter and in performance or in location choice.Fewer researchers have looked directly at performing arts organizations with an urbanstudies/planning lens. The research that does fall under the urban studies heading tends to focusprimarily on geographic location more broadly, thereby neglecting building type and the
immediate built environment. My study focuses primarily on the physical space(s) in whichsmall and medium-sized, non-profit performing arts organizations carry out their day-to-dayactivities. In most cases, each physical space that was studied functions as a site for performance,education, and administrative initiatives. I was eager to learn how arts organizations found andfunded their buildings, why they chose their location and type of space, and how they adaptedthe space to fit their needs. In addition, I set out to see whether there was a link between buildingtype/physical space and artistic mission/programming.
Overview and Methods
This study consists of four sections in addition to this introduction: Literature Review,National Prototype Case Study, Chicago Case Study, and Conclusion. The literature review takesinto account a large and varied body of publications that offer research in the following fields:urban planning, cultural programming, arts administration, and sociology. There were a numberof recurring topics and keywords, including social and cultural capital, community engagement,creative class and creative economy, urban demography, and cultural geography. Only a smallamount of the literature considered performance arts organizations strictly from the perspectiveof building type or physical space. Still, the combined resources in the related fields proved to beimmensely useful to this interdisciplinary study, especially in combination with the two casestudies.The National Case Study is an analysis of marketing and PR materials, as well as publicreports and records, that shows how arts organizations are attempting to appear more open,inviting, and community-
involved by ‗marketing‘ the physical space in and around which they
carry out their artistic and administrative endeavors. This section is not restricted to Chicago, but
rather seeks to highlight ‗prototype‘ organizations of varying sizes throughout the country that
are making a concerted to effort to mesh their mission and programming with their physicalspace and built surroundings. In this section I also bring attention to a recent Request forProposals from the National Endowment of Arts as an example of how, in light of decreasedgovernment funding for the arts and a renewed interest in urbanism, cultural and urban policy arebecoming increasingly aligned. Though the National Case Study is partially limited by anabsence of site visits and a lack of first-hand interviews, it acts as a snapshot of an emergenttrend in the non-profit performance arts sector and provides a set of prototype examples that arealluded to by artists and administrators in the interviews carried out as part of the Chicago CaseStudy.The Chicago Case Study is the end product of a series of interviews and site visits tosmall and medium-sized arts organization in Chicago from September 2009 to July 2010. Theinterviews afforded me the opportunity to ask specific questions about the organization and itsuse of urban space, while the site visits offered me a glimpse of how each physical space wasbeing used and where it was specifically located. The interviews provided evidence that building
type and physical space are immensely important to an organization‘s ability to
compete in thecreative economy and contribute to the urban community.The combined information gained from both case studies helped me to develop a
‗Typology of Space‘. This typology functions as the starting point for a much
-needed, detailedcatalog of building types utilized by small and medium-sized arts organizations. Thisinformation will be useful for performance artists and start-up organizations in their efforts to
find a suitable ‗home‘ for their artistic pursuits, and will help communities to view abandoned
buildings and vacant lots as a potential asset to cultural development. The Typology of Space

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