Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cultural Reaction

The last week (or last few years, if you're really keeping track), there has been a big push for awareness of the county funding for the cultural organizations in Erie County. The budget needs to be approved by the legislature by next Tuesday; on Monday, there was a budget public hearing where representatives of the culturals were able to speak on their behalf. On Monday, Buffalo Rising had an article to make the community aware of the issues at hand. Lawrence Brose, Executive Director of CEPA Gallery, wrote a piece in the article to explain different ways to make a difference during the budget process. All good contributions, I think, to an effort to get people behind getting our culturals healthy.
The whole purpose of this blog was to get people talking about the City of Buffalo and the strength of our art community - the future Creative Class and cultural tourism. So some of the comments on the above mentioned article, were, well, sickening.
The comments centered on themes like "welfare" and the need to rely primarily on private money instead of the government, and there seemed to be the insinuation of culturals being linked to the "elitists."

I left a comment with the BR story, but it was the middle of the night when I read it on my break (an overnight shift - last I checked, elitist jobs don't have those shifts), so I thought I would elaborate.

Many of the culturals in question have educational programs as well as shows open to the general community. I myself have taught photography at Buffalo Arts Studios to adult students, young and older teens, and scholarship students who have demonstrated financial need. CEPA, Squeaky Wheel and Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes also offer classes to children of all income levels. With the hits that the arts have taken in funding in the public school system (arts programs are usually targeted first for cuts in educational budgets), the independent art organizations are sometimes the only real exposure kids get to a vigorous art class.
College students also rely on these institutions for internship experience for credit - hanging shows, curating, etc. A lively art community goes hand in hand with higher education, and Buffalo's economy does rely on the many colleges that grace our city.

I do think that it's really important to take a look at Buffalo's future. We need to have the quality of life component that will attract and keep great minds in our town. The Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics is going to rely heavily on this to get the researchers that will put the Center on the map. Richard Florida ("The Rise of the Creative Class") has written tirelessly about the need for creative thinkers to propel the economy in the 21st century.
Bashar Issa needs to get a certain percentage of occupancy (business and otherwise) before he can begin the high-rise at Elmwood and Mohawk. There needs to be more than a casino to make entire businesses move to Buffalo.

We have this all here. Buffalo has appeared as an Arts destination in Style Magazine for the last five years, and that's with city and county funding being cut over the same amount of time. The inner city is crawling with private investment, and cultural entertainment is what many new city dwellers will be looking for. Now is the time to invest in the culturals. I believe the way Buffalo is growing, they will be able to take care of themselves soon.



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