Why do Artists Create Urban Development? A Case Study of SoHo, New York-University Lecture Series - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why do Artists Create Urban Development? A Case Study of SoHo, New York

Center for the Arts in Society

Wednesday, March 27, 2013     |     4:30 pm, Adamson Wing, Baker Hall 136A

Aaron Shkuda, PhD, ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University

Today, there is an assumption that artists help create a certain type of urban development. Urban policymakers seek to create and nurture arts communities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the foundation world have focused on the idea of “creative placemaking,” and former Carnegie Mellon professor Richard Florida has made a career out of exploring the connection between the creative class and dynamic urban economies. Yet it is not entirely clear why the link between artists and urban development should exist. Artists don’t often earn high incomes, and some are even explicitly anti-capitalist. Why should they help drive real estate development and retail growth? The case of Manhattan’s SoHo can begin to provide answers to this question. The history of one of the first artist-gentrified neighborhoods demonstrates how the efforts of artists in creating a new form of adaptive or reuse of industrial structures, organizing politically to legalize their homes, and speculating in local loft real estate helped create the current link between artists and urban development.