What does the existence of art and artists within a geographic landscape mean for a community? How important is it? What might happen if empty spaces could be converted into energetically abundant vortexes of creativity?
We’re very glad to be part of an upcoming attempt to answer those questions in direct relation to our immediate surroundings. The Hammer Museum was recently awarded a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation for its Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood urban renewal project. Check out the proposal video below and see if you just might also be able to visualize what our friends at the Hammer have planned to boost the presence of the arts in Westwood Village this fall.
If you’ve spent any time in Westwood Village over the last several years, you’ve probably witness first-hand phenomenon this video illustrates. There are a lot of storefronts left fallow. A lot of “For Lease” signs emblazoned with the labels of just a handful of real-estate or management companies.
But those empty store windows tell a false story. It’s not that there is a lack of creativity or energy in Westwood Village or among the people who live and work nearby. The Hammer itself is a tireless hub of creative energy and artistic innovation. The people who live, work and attend school in the area are greatly interested in experiencing the arts and in participating in a thriving local community.
One example is a particular cadre of UCLA students, who in looking for an outlet to perform and enjoy live music, have taken it upon themselves to create their own nightlife in an area that admittedly doesn’t support one. These young artists and arts lovers have found creative places to experience live music and these are the kinds of people who will we can serve and who will also hopefully help out in the upcoming efforts of Arts ReSTORE LA.
Creativity is not lacking. Situated so close to a University populated by tens of thousands of people devoted to betterment, to knowledge and to new experiences, Westwood Village can and should be a culturally relevant place not only for its immediate neighbors, but for anyone visiting this part of Los Angeles.
Westwood is in a precarious situation. Understandably, property owners and landlords can’t be expected to function from a purely altruistic state…there are investments to be returned upon and potential profits to pursue. But until the economic realities of potential business renters in the area match up with the economic aspirations of the landholders, it’s exciting to at least consider the opportunities and possibilities of what these spaces might become.
Most people would likely agree that arts and artists provide valuable ideological, emotional, cultural and even spiritual capital to a community. But it’s a proven fact that the arts also play an integral role in the economic well being of our society.
Nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts’ most recent Arts & Economic Prosperity report demonstrates that the arts are an industry—one that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is a cornerstone of tourism. Business and elected leaders need not feel that a choice must be made between arts funding and economic prosperity. This study proves that they can choose both.
According to this study, nationally the arts industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity in 2010. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations pumped an estimated $61.1 billion into the economy even in the middle of the “Great Recession” in addition to $74.1 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income. Our industry also generates $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year—a yield well beyond the collective $4 billion that these entities contributed to the arts in 2010.
We believe this model can play out on a micro level in our immediate community; that the arts can play a major role in not only the cultural vibrancy of Westwood, but also in its universally desired economic revitalization.
We’ll be collaborating with the Hammer, campus groups and artists to contribute a performing arts perspective to the Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood project.
Stay tuned for updates and get ready to be part of it this fall.