Thursday, February 4, 2010

Competing Arts Districts

When a city has a naturally developed arts district, the local government usually acts upon it to help build it up and make it thrive. However, what happens when a city has more than one arts district that has naturally occurred? Will the city acknowledge all the arts districts and try to build up various areas, or decide on one? Will the city even acknowledge these various other districts that they are not actively promoting, or will they completely deny the existence of them within the city?

This phenomenon has actually occurred within the city of Pittsburgh. There is the main Cultural District that is located downtown that the city actively promotes through the events of the monthly Pittsburgh Arts Crawl, Festival of the Arts, and numerous theater and gallery events that occur all throughout the year. However, this is not the only arts district. Another self-made thriving area is the Penn Avenue arts district, located approximately 5 miles up the street from the main Cultural District.

The Penn Avenue arts district is run by a non-profit organization called the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative. They promote the opening of new DIY galleries, concert spaces, eating establishments, theater productions, among other events and venues. There is also first Fridays, Unblurred, which is heavily attended regardless of weather conditions. This entails free shows, gallery openings, street theater, etc. However, there is no promotion of this area by the city, and therefore, the attendance by the city is much lower than what it could be, because it is virtually unknown. Many of the buildings have had issues getting funding, and are run down. However, there is cheap living available.

Along with the Penn Avenue arts district, there is another arts initiative happening just outside the city of Pittsburgh, (less than 5 minutes drive). The Braddock Arts Initiative started with the election of a new mayor to the area. He is promoting subsidized living for working artists in many of the abandoned warehouses within the formal steel mill town. There is a large artists population that has worked on house rehabs, urban farming, and public arts projects. The most well known public arts project is the Points of Interest project, which is located all over Braddock. The main problem Braddock faces is the Mon-Fayette expressway that has been proposed numerous times, which would run a highway directly through the town of Braddock to connect Pittsburgh, Pa to Charlestown, WV.

Pittsburgh Cultural District

Penn Avenue Arts Initiative

Braddock Points of Interest Photostream

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