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And the arts bring life to your city


“Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms of creativity–artistic and cultural, technological and economic–can take root and flourish.” Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited.

Approximately $300,000 will be cut from the Public Arts budget in Fort Worth, a 25% reduction from 2012. That 25% reduction will multiply into other areas of the Fort Worth economy as the people who will receive those cuts create tremendous value for the city–value the city will lose.

The arts are a tricky thing to value. Painting, photographing, performing, pirouetting, playing with ideas that reflect a culture, mean different things to different people. Through asking a lot of questions and doing math, we can get get a sense of their nominal value. The Arts Council of Fort Worth commissioned a study regarding the impact of the arts to Tarrant County. $200 million dollars coalesce, swirl and reverberate through the economy across industry expenditures, income, taxes and money spent on events.

To echo the point of how amazing that is, consider that Fort Worth contributes $.94 per capita towards the arts. Our Dallas neighbors to the near east–$3.10. Our El Paso (EL PASO!) friends to the far west–$1.95. Per capita measurements are how we make cities equal. And for a city that prides itself in Cowboys and Culture, the per capita measurement of arts investments ought to be an embarrassing shred in the in the back of our jeans.

The study also touched on those that put their painters’ jeans on. 3,000 jobs thread in multiple directions due to the arts. Those are people. Creative people. Creative people who know people. Creative people who attract people who know people who know people.

There’s the rub. There’s the collective tumbleweed blowing through our prarie. There’s the boot in our cowboy rear end.

The arts attract creative people, to create things or events. They bring skills that we can’t send to India or China, and instead apply them to our community. When creative people combine and share ideas, innovation happens. Also, they spend money, they attract night life, they attract more culture and value.

A prime example is the Magnolia corridor. A mix of bars, restaurants, shops, galleries and housing that feels uniquely creative. Property values between 2004 and 2011 increased 137%. Some would say that a vegan restaurant kicked it all off. A vegan restaurant in a steak town attracted so much more.

Much more, innovation, like fortune, favors the bold, the prepared and those who nurture it.

Fort Worth has a choice, one that isn’t zero sum–public policy is rarely zero sum–but one that is nuanced. The city manager stated in the proposed 2013 budget that this budget is a maintenance budget. Yet, they city wishes to grow revenues and increase economic development.

Taking money away in the short term will cause longer term impacts for numerous organizations, and consequently, the city.

If Fort Worth nurtures its arts and creative citizens, makes the policy choice of supporting the arts, it will bring in much more than it invests.

I grew up in surburban Houston, a place without zoning and seemingly any forthought to growth and development. A trip to the museums encompassed a day trip downtown. Nightlife was the movie theater. Street festivals were neighborhood affairs of a lone street with a couple of pies and a few coolers of cold drinks.

In staying here after TCU, I live in a city that astutely manages its land for development. I have five world class museums within a half mile of each other and can visit them all before lunch. Rooftops, live bands, speak easy cocktails and amazing food are a ticket to any night of the week. Street festivals in this city bring in those across state lines.

All of this is possible because we have creative people within City Hall who beleive in what our tax dollars do. These creative people live here for some reason or another. And maybe they stayed because they liked it here. Because it’s a city that supports the arts and creativity. Cowboys that rustle the resources to a diverse Culture that is Fort Worth.

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