Sunday, June 16, 2013

On the TBO article titled: "St. Pete art scene thrives, but market sags."

I was interviewed over the phone for this article. I was quoted correctly, and have no complaints, but would like to address some specific points in the article.

Several times today, I read artists in Facebook complaining that the community "does not support the arts". I often hear about all the ultra-rich that are not buying local art (or art from elsewhere locally). The community does support the arts. Whatever scene exists today is only because community support is there.

While I see a flowering arts scene, as often happens during economic downturns, there is little doubt that it is being trumpeted to high heaven (as it should be) to attract more visitors. St. Pete has a rapidly expanding arts scene, but is it market-driven? A bubble? Sustainable?

The first quantifiable problem is that the average household income for St. Pete and Tampa is about  $9000.00 dollars less than the national average for 2013. This is a significant amount of money, and that part of the budget where money for the arts comes from. I see people drooling over art all the time, many wishing out loud that they could afford it. The only way to fix this from this angle is to enhance economic development for the area. Not just for the 1%-ers. Not an easy problem to solve.

This has to be said, but is it possible that there are integral flaws with the arts models in the area? While many have been attracted by the lower cost per sq ft of the Warehouse Arts District, the fact is that there is very little foot traffic. This is not a problem if one is dealing with corporate sales, or public projects, but for most artists, it is an insurmountable problem, One that 12 2nd Saturdays a year, nor trolleys can fix.

There are many ways that the City can partner with the artists to develop marketing strategies, specially involving going outside the City to sell art. Incrementally, there are many ways to improve things as well. I hear many good ideas being floated around in the paat few weeks.

Is the market too stingy? That's one way to look at it. Another is that the supply of art exceeds demand. We could be in the middle of an art micro-bubble.

--- Luis



1 comment:

  1. I don't think the resolution to this problem is making art more affordable (either by making cheaper art or producing richer people). This tends to lead to a market of artful objects rather than an actual art market.
    Rather, perhaps we should be looking at a model for compensating artists for their cultural services independent of selling work, i.e. non-profits, alternative spaces, etc. This allows artists to make quality art unencumbered by the kitchy demands of a second-rate market. Once a consistent pattern of, let's say, Basel-worthy art has been established collectors will come.