Arts (for) Infrastructure

Photo by Buddy Rogers

Art work on entrance ramp to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Photo by Buddy Rogers for Google Maps

I dropped a friend off at the airport today – airports, along with roads and bridges are what most people think of when they think of infrastructure projects. Driving on the highway near the airport, my friend commented, “They do a really good job here of integrating art into infrastructure.”

When I started Creative Infrastructure about four years ago, it was because I wanted to develop a platform to share “thoughts and ideas about infrastructure for the arts.” Today, as I was reading Jason Shupbach’s piece on the 100 Resilient Cities blog, I recognized that my interest has evolved over the years to include not only “infrastructure for the arts,” but also “arts for infrastructure.” I was fortunate to have had an opportunity last month to sit down with Jamie Bennett and Jamie Hand of ArtPlace America, the creative placemaking consortium. They were explaining their goal of making sure that arts and culture is included in every urban planning process along with utilities, education, transportation, and so on. Arts and culture IS part of the infrastructure of our cities – and also our towns and rural areas — and can/should be at the planning table. Thus is woven the fabric of our communities.

Too often, people (and you know who you are) get bogged down in arguments about intrinsic versus extrinsic benefits of artistic creation and arts participation. Such arguments are not only futile; they are counter-productive. It would be far better to recognize that the relationship between art and infrastructure is a two-way street: the arts need solid infrastructure and the arts are a necessary component of solid infrastructure. AZDOTActually, it’s not just a two-way street; it’s a complicated network of connections that encompass the intrinsic and extrinsic, the economic and the altruistic, the private and the public. If it were easy…well, I wouldn’t need to write about it so much.

(image from AZ Department of Transportation)

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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