Historical Approaches to the Role of the Arts in Urban Development

AHA Session 144
Saturday, January 5, 2013: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Southdown Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Julia Foulkes, The New School
Julia Foulkes, The New School

Session Abstract

This panel will focus on the role of the arts and artists in urban development in the United States, a theme that fits well with the theme of the upcoming AHA Conference, “Lives, Places, Stories.”  The papers focus on the range of lived experiences of artists, the sites where the arts “take place” the influence of place on their reception, the role of the arts in shaping the built environment, as well as the importance of urban geography on the creation of art.  Finally, they each investigate the way people make sense of the “stories” of their city’s artistic traditions by exploring how differing visions of the history of the arts in a particular locale can be used to shape redevelopment plans.

The panel’s three papers will investigate the arts and urban development from various angles: examining the art produced in urban areas, the producers of this art (the artists themselves), the context in which the art was produced, the changing view of, and support for, the arts in society, and the effect of the arts on the communities and cities in which it was created.  The papers seek to bridge the gap between multiple scholarly literatures, including works that focus on art and artists, studies of culture within an urban context, and analyses of urban development and decline and the role of the arts in urban historical memory.

The panel, which includes participants from the fields of History, Art History, and English Languages and Literature, will present and discuss papers that tie the arts to a broader historical analysis of urban development and redevelopment. Despite the noteworthy literature on art and culture in the city, the role of the arts has been notably absent in the analyses of urban growth, decline and change.  The papers on this panel will investigate how the arts shaped civic actors’ views of urban growth (including urban renewal plans), how artists themselves pioneered new forms of development, and how the efforts of artists to upgrade their environment were coopted by other interests.  Lastly, each paper will focus on the efforts of a city to use the arts to improve its image and economy at a time of real or perceived urban decline in the period after World War II.

Finally, while the papers do not focus on New Orleans itself, they investigate the broader processes by which cities have used the arts to rehabilitate their images and improve their economies, an issue of fundamental importance to the Crescent City.

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