I read Chris Coleman’s OpEd piece in today’s Oregonian, and felt as if he was speaking for me. I too believe that Portland’s creative culture is what drives our economy. Awhile back, Tom Miller, Sam Adam’s Chief of Staff recommended I read a book that has actually altered my direction in art advocacy. The book is The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art & Music Drive New York City by Elizabeth Currid.
The title says it all, and while Portland is not New York City, it is full of the creative culture that brings people to Portland to visit or stay. All of what we value is based upon an upward spiraling economy that is founded on the creative class. These artists, both visual and performing, are the magnet that pulls us all into the city.
Thank about it: why would someone that is highly educated with disposable income want to even pass through Portland? It’s the creative culture. Highly educated people need an avenue to expand their minds, and the arts has it for many. Those same highly educated individuals fall in love with our unique style. In turn, they tell their friends, who could be attorneys, magazine publishers, models, CEOs, and so forth.
I remember those good words from the New York Times about how great our restaurants are. Who can afford to eat out except those people who have the money to walk our streets and go to clubs, dine, catch a show, and, oh, yes, do business.
One of the most important factors of Currid’s book is that business in New York City is NOT conducted in offices. Business is conducted at clubs, or at the theatre, the art galleries, or other creative venues. The same is true here in Portland. We bump into people we know who have the same interests in the arts at one of our many events, and usually discuss a bit of business, too.
So Mayor Potter, what you are doing by not including the arts in your budget is bad for business. A fat art budget for the city will attract business that are looking to relocate their offices to a place that is diverse enough to retain its valuable employees. Those new businesses will help support the arts.
Chris Coleman is absolutely correct. Mayor Potter can site certain other factors that may see to be more important to him, but Potter really needs to get the vision that art is the giant magnet that attracts the press, the jobs, the new businesses, and most importantly, the money.