For 2017, Lower Barriers

As I write my year-end post in celebration of the anniversary of this blog, I find myself still reeling from the results of the election eight weeks ago, my mind overwhelmed at times by the “what-could-have-been”s that gave me hope before and the “what-will-be”s that give me insomnia now. Nevertheless, I am heartened by the blog’s statistics that tell me that the most popular post of the year by far, even beating out donut post that went viral, “Just Say NO!” was an item from 2013 on defining arts incubators, a post written in the midst of a two-year project researching the value created by arts incubators and the ways they assess that value. Ultimately, my research found that arts incubators create value by lowering barriers.

jubilee_fields_car_park_mildenhall_-_geograph-org-uk_-_641326I would like to close out 2016 on this theme of lowering barriers. What are the barriers to artists and the arts that are looming for 2017 and how can they be lowered? What barriers exist to personal wellbeing – yours, mine, and the collective ours – and how can they be lowered? Perhaps most importantly, what are the barriers to success that you and I build for ourselves and others and how can we halt their construction before they are erected? In preparation for my next big project, I’m reading Ryan Avent’s excellent book on labor economics, The Wealth of Humans. A phrase jumped out at me like a neon sign:

Legacy structures are a direct hindrance to innovation (p. 112)

What are the structures (institutional, organizational, personal) that are already in place that create barriers to innovation and other positive outcomes? How can they be lowered?

Some answers already exist. Here’s a short list:

  • EDUCATION. Keep an eye on that one in 2017, especially vis a vis public education and what is euphemistically called “school choice” (or what I call “willful economic segregation”).
  • SECURITY. If we think of security as secure assets and safe housing for artists, keep an eye on that one in 2017, especially in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland and the regulatory backlash that seems to be occurring.
  • OPEN COMMUNICATION and INFORMATION FLOW. Keep an eye on that one in 2017, especially given the incoming administration’s relationship with and attitude toward a free press.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE EQUITY. Keep an eye on that one in 2017, especially as it relates to net neutrality and potential threats against it.
  • HEALTHCARE. Keep an eye on that one, especially as the move to repeal the ACA gathers steam, leaving 20 million uninsured in its wake.

Education, security, information flow, equitable access to infrastructure, and adequate healthcare lower barriers for artists – and everyone else – to do their best work. As we look to 2017, let’s keep an eye on barriers that already exist as well as new ones that might develop and, where necessary, #resist their construction.


(photo of Jubilee Fields car park by Bob Jones, CC 2.0)

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.
This entry was posted in arts infrastructure, Arts policy, Culture and democracy, Institutional Infrastructure, Personal infrastructure, Physical Infrastructure, Technology and arts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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