When a city has a thriving arts community, it signals support for, and recognition of, the value that a creative economy brings to a city. A creative economy exists when the ideas of individuals generate public ideas, products, and services through financial assistance. A creative economy integrates multiple artistic and entrepreneurial disciplines. Investment in all stages of creation fosters innovative and artistic benefits for our homes, schools, offices, and streets.
To cultivate a creative economy, the government must play a larger role because while we have the funding, we lack the mechanisms to support the distribution of funds. Our city will have a thriving, artistically expressive, and vibrant community if it collectively supports all of the sectors that make up the creative economy. There are at least four steps we need to take in order to do this successfully:
- First, we need to have plans in place to fund the space where an artist works. This means funding for studios, living quarters, theater space, galleries, and public outdoor spaces that can house large installations.
- Second, we must cultivate relationships with new artists and maintain on-going relationships with established artists in the city. We must insist that art is present everywhere and in order to do this we must support the artists and musicians. We should be able to easily track the artists in our city and what projects they are working on and what support they need. There should be an identifiable connection between our community and the networks of artists in D.C.
- Third, we must support the institutions that are already serving our city and have been for decades. These theater companies and music and dance studios are already executing the production process. The support they need is with capital projects, infrastructure, and wrap around services in order to sustain their businesses. We should broaden our idea of what supporting the arts means and not only invest in the finished product, but also invest in what is necessary to sustain ongoing production.
- And lastly, we need to finance finished products. We have acres of government owned, unused or underutilized land throughout the city, particularly in neighborhoods that would greatly benefit from public art pieces. We need to be financing music, dance, and performing art schools so that all of our residents can access it, learn about it, and participate in it organically. Again, this should be the responsibility of the government and not the people of District.
In order to accomplish all of the categories that I mentioned, we need a strong, capable, and willing Commission that can think broadly about how we can create these opportunities and will take on the burden to grow the creative economy in the District. We need creative minds at the Commission, those who are thinking about ways to spend funds with vision and efficiency. If DCCAH can execute a strong plan then it will be in the position to be a recognized leader in how arts and humanities support should look. There is no reason why our jazz festival cannot compare to New Orleans’, our film festivals to Sundance, or our public art shows to Basel or the Biennale.
I am interested to hear the Commission’s plans for its future and to know what they are doing in the community. I look forward to the witness testimony and engaging with you in the discussions that follow it. Thank you.