Back in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Public Art Review, I read a short piece by Arlene Goldbard, author of New Creative Community. It was about jobs—well, jobs and artists, public attitudes and social values, and what’s necessary to spur national economic recovery. She made a couple of points that I can’t shake, so I wanted to share them here.
Goldbard begins with a simple question: “What sustains us?” Her answer, in short, is storytelling and art. “Communities derive nourishment from stories that offer inspiration, empathy, and guidance, that help possibility to bloom,” she writes. “We create stories on walls and other sites of public memory, in dance and theater, moving-image media, print, music, digital communication. . . . Under even horrific conditions—in prison, in refugee camps—we make art.”
The connection to the economy is straightforward: Artists are culture-makers, and “culture is the crucible for changing perceptions and feelings, for communicating hopes and fears, and creating choices in places of desperation. How people feel about the economy, for instance, is as central to recovery as any regulatory intervention.”
Overlooking or excluding of the arts from recovery programs fails to capitalize on this power. Goldbard, in a video interview (below) on her website, additionally makes the point that a job, after all, is a job. “You give people a salary, and they pay the rent and buy groceries, and that puts money into circulation, starting the flow that can restore the economy,” she says. And that includes jobs for artists.