The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents

Bishop, Claire.

Claire Bishop’s short paper begins with a curious quote from Dan Graham: “All artists are alike. They dream of doing something that’s more social, more critical, and more real than art” (60). A brazen comment, this generalization gives Bishop’s discussion a provocative start. It also anticipates her assumption that all “real” art is necessarily concerned with aesthetics. This helps to explain her interest in discussing “the social turn” as Art—or, more accurately, a lack thereof. 

After briefly describing both the recent proliferation of publicly engaged art practices and their value as therapy for repairing the social bond, Bishop maps prevailing perceptions of this art as polarized. There are the “non-believers,” the aesthetes who dismiss the art as uninteresting, and there are “the believers” the zealots, the activists who, according to Bishop, “…reject aesthetic questions a s synonymous with the market and cultural hierarchy” (61). Curiously, Bishop fails to identify a third group: that is, the ambivalent believers, who, like Bishop and myself, sit between these two positions. Our group is comprised of art lovers and makers alike who wonder why we ask so little of art? Why can it not be both politically charged and aesthetically interesting at the same time?

Unfortunately, this is not a question being asked enough by critics, in part because critics aren’t asking many (if any) questions of socially engaged practices these days (Though it could well be argued this symptomatic of the death of criticism more generally). Bishop offers two complimentary explanations for this. On the one hand, there is the problem of authorial renunciation. Still rooted in a romantic notion of art, contemporary criticism is easily disorientated by the absence of a single and clearly defined author. Without this figure on which to peg their discourse, critics have instead turned to the intention of the work, specifically its so-called ethical intentions. Forgoing discussion about aesthetic quality, they instead explore the work’s therapeutic value evinced through its working processes.

READ: Bishop, Claire. “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents.”

Communicating Climate Change and Motivating Civic Action: Renewing, Activating, and Building Democracies

Susanne C. Moser

Introduction

Governments are critical for bringing about the transition to a more sustainable human interaction with the environment as they set priorities and policies and may model new behavior. Yet, civil society is also indispensable in bringing about change. It is no small challenge to communicate effectively in order to engage civil society in this task. Many argue that the federal governments of North America are failing to provide needed leadership on climate change. In the absence of committed top-level leadership, bottom-up pressure is building to force policy changes at the federal level. This volume provides convincing evidence of growing action on cli- mate change at various levels and in different sectors of North America (Farrell and Hanemann, this volume; Gore and Robinson, this volume; Rabe, this volume; Selin and VanDeveer, this volume). At the same time, a social movement for climate pro- tection is beginning to emerge (Moser 2007b).

Broad sections of U.S. and Canadian societies, however, are not yet fully on board regarding the need for comprehensive climate change action and meaningful behavioral changes (Rabe, this volume; Stoett, this volume). In Mexico, civic mobi- lization around climate change has been barely evident at all in the early years of the twenty-first century (Pulver, this volume). This chapter examines civic mobilization around climate change primarily in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Can- ada and Mexico, in relation to climate governance efforts in public and private sec- tors from local to international levels. It focuses on how greater civic engagement on climate change can be fostered. Civil society can play at least two critical roles in climate change governance: (1) it can mobilize to push for policy changes at any level of government, and (2) it may enact behavioral changes consistent with needed mitigation and adaptation strategies.

If North American societies are to engage in these two types of civic responsibil- ities, however, communicators of climate change must go beyond merely conveying climate change knowledge and more effectively encourage and enable individuals to take part in the societal transformation necessary to address climate change success- fully (Moser and Dilling 2004, 2007a). Climate communicators have not yet fully taken on this challenge, but climate change presents an opportunity to renew U.S. society and democracy with greater civic engagement, build enduring democratic institutions in Mexico, and activate civic engagement more fully in Canada. The next section explores and compares public opinions about climate change across North America, demonstrating that deeper civic engagement has not yet been achieved in any of the three countries.

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Can The Arts Help Save Rural America? By Teresa Wiltz

Can The Arts Help Save Rural America?

“You need arts in rural America so that the next generation wants to come there and live,” said Charles Fluharty, president and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute, a public policy institute located at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. 

“If you do not build vibrant, inclusive, diverse places for young people, they’re not going to raise their families there. They’re simply not. And those communities will wither away,” Fluharty said.

Around the nation, arts are helping a handful of rural communities make a go of it. Marfa, a remote desert town in Texas with a population of 1,765, has become an international arts mecca among fashionistas. Every summer for the last 45 years, 12,000 people swarm Winfield, Kansas, pitching their tents at the town’s annual bluegrass music festival and temporarily doubling the city’s population. 

Business leaders and city administrators say it’s almost impossible to pin a dollar figure on the amount of revenue arts and entertainment can bring to a rural community. In 2013, arts and cultural production contributed $704 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 4.7 million jobs.

Community leaders say the arts can foster community pride and create jobs, even on a modest scale. To be successful, they say, a rural community must figure out what makes it unique — a gorgeous natural landscape that can serve as the backdrop for a writers’ retreat, an old opera house, or a tradition of local storytelling — and capitalize on that. 

“People say, ‘I’m going to Winfield.’ They don’t say, ‘I’m going to the Walnut Valley Festival.’ The festival is giving us this name recognition. You could never pay for that type of recognition,” said Warren Porter, Winfield’s city manager. 

Tourists flock to Lanesboro, Minnesota, population 754, a historic town known for its Victorian architecture and scenic river bikeway, to take in theater, art galleries, museums, film festivals and live music. Smithsonian magazine named it one of its “20 Best Small Towns to Visit.” (Minnesota has an arts and heritage fund paid for with revenue from state sales taxes.)

 

There, the entire town was declared an arts campus two years ago. And with $1.3 million in local, state and federal funding, the town has been renovating facilities, helping artists relocate there and developing an artist residency center, said John Davis, executive director of Lanesboro Arts, a coordinating organization. In the meantime, 10 businesses have opened in town. 

Owensboro, a small city in western Kentucky located on the Ohio River, has invested $260 million of public and private money to revamp its downtown riverfront and convention center and build a new building for its International Bluegrass Music Museum.

The city was known for its museum, which opened in 1991 and “set the tone for creating a brand for arts and culture,” said Joe Berry, vice president of entrepreneurship for the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation. The town also has a symphony and a pre-professional ballet company. 

“We’ve watched our state government send money to everywhere but Owensboro,” Berry said. “We decided we’re not going to wait for our state government to help us. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and figure out how to do it ourselves.”

Remaking Small Town America

At the “Next Generation” summit in Iowa City, artists and policy wonks from 35 states crammed in conference rooms to talk strategy, breaking every now and then to take in a performance from a storyteller or folk singer. 

They toss around the term “creative placemaking,” an earnest shorthand for building economically viable arts hubs.

The bit of jargon belies the urgency that many rural communities face, said Bob Reeder, program director of Rural LISC (the rural component of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works with rural communities to stimulate economic development. 

In nearly half of the country’s rural counties, more people have moved out than have moved in during every decade since the 1950s. Many rural communities are blighted, with vacant buildings and crumbling infrastructure. Rural unemployment has eased up since the recession, but creating jobs remains a challenge.

“There are many rural communities that are threatened with becoming a ghost town,” Reeder said. “Can the arts save rural America? I would never call it a panacea, but it’s another strategy that we have in our toolkit.” 

Metropolitan areas receive community development block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which give them the flexibility to do long-term strategic planning. 

In contrast, rural communities have to compete for funding. They can apply for a federal HUD grant. And they receive competitive grants from their governor’s office, which are typically meted out every few years. By the time that funding comes around, it usually goes to obtaining, say, a new fire truck, rather than creating an arts scene.

“That’s a massive disadvantage to community development,” Fluharty said. 

Escaping the Big City

Zachary Mannheimer, a former New Yorker who moved to Iowa nine years ago, travels his adopted state consulting with small towns on how to convert their abandoned hospitals and hotels into multiuse facilities that incorporate rental housing for young professionals, restaurants and community arts centers. 

The idea is to make a town attractive to young people, said Mannheimer of the Iowa Business Growth Company, a for-profit economic development group that uses federal and state loans and tax credits to fund small business startups in towns across the state. 

Increasingly, Mannheimer said, young creative types are being forced out of big cities and are looking for less expensive places to live. And many people eventually tire of metropolis living and seek a less hectic existence.

A recent study by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship found that half of the young people from rural communities said that they would love to stay in their hometowns if there were real career opportunities available for them. That means small town America needs to prepare to welcome them back.

“Towns have to be prepared for 30 years from now. It’s all about figuring out what does your town have that no other town on the planet has,” Mannheimer said.

Rural communities should think small in starting to revitalize themselves, said Reeder of Rural LISC.

Trying to woo back manufacturing in today’s service-driven economy is not realistic, he said. All too often, big corporations swoop into a rural community but don’t end up hiring many locals. And they rarely stick around, he said, leaving carcasses of abandoned industrial parks. 

“Don’t be trying to get a Wal-Mart,” Reeder said. For every dollar spent in these stores, 90 cents goes outside the community, he said. “For every dollar spent in a local food mart, just the opposite happens.”

‘Capital of Quirkiness’

Sometimes becoming a tourist mecca has its downside, especially if a town doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the boom. In Marfa, for example, there’s no room to grow, said James Mustard, the city administrator. The town is landlocked, bordered by ranches that have been owned by a handful of families for years. 

In the 1970s, the artist Donald Judd left New York for Marfa. He bought a chunk of land, and with foundation money, populated Marfa with all kinds of art installations. CBS’s “60 Minutes” dubbed the town “the capital of quirkiness.”

Over the years, hipsters from New York and Los Angeles gobbled up the housing stock to use as second homes. As a result, appraised housing values skyrocketed, and some locals complained about a jump in their property taxes. Part-timers rented out their homes on Airbnb. Affordable housing shrank. 

“We have few vacant lots,” Mustard said. “You can’t build a subdivision. You can’t build 20 new houses.”

But as Calhoun of the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs sees it, with careful planning, a community can take advantage of tourism dollars. 

The proceeds from the annual music fest go to a foundation that funds leadership programs for women, and provides grants to improve rural communities and support family farms and ranches. 

Her county is no longer the poorest in the nation. White Sulphur Springs has a new Main Street, sporting goods store, brewery and bakery — and new sidewalks and streetlights. It soon will have a new school and library. 

But Calhoun is not interested in seeing White Sulphur Springs become a boom town. There’s a reason why she moved to the middle of nowhere.

“Getting bigger isn’t the solution. Getting better is. If you design it for the tourists, you’re making a mistake,” said Calhoun, who represented Montana last year at the White House’s Small Business Leadership Summit. “Design it for your community. Then the others will come.” 

 

This is Your Brain on Architecture

In her new book, Sarah Williams Goldhagen presents scientific evidence for why some buildings delight us and others—too many of them—disappoint.

“This paradigm,” she writes in her magisterial new book, Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, “holds that much of what and how people think is a function of our living in the kinds of bodies we do.” Not just conscious thoughts, but non-conscious impressions, feedback from our senses, physical movement, and even split-second mental simulations of that movement shape how we respond to a place, Goldhagen argues. And in turn, the place nudges us to think or behave in certain ways.

Health and climate related ecosystem services provided by street trees in the urban environment

 

Jennifer A. Salmond1*, Marc Tadaki2, Sotiris Vardoulakis3,4,5, Katherine Arbuthnott3,5, Andrew Coutts6,7, Matthias Demuzere6,7,8, Kim N. Dirks9, Clare Heaviside3,5, Shanon Lim1, Helen Macintyre3, Rachel N. McInnes4,10 and Benedict W. Wheeler4 

Urban tree planting initiatives are being actively promoted as a planning tool to enable urban areas to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, enhance urban sustainability and improve human health and well-being. However, opportunities for creating new areas of green space within cities are often limited and tree planting initiatives may be constrained to kerbside locations. At this scale, the net impact of trees on human health and the local environment is less clear, and generalised approaches for evaluating their impact are not well developed.

In this review, we use an urban ecosystems services framework to evaluate the direct, and locally-generated, ecosystems services and disservices provided by street trees. We focus our review on the services of major importance to human health and well-being which include ‘climate regulation’, ‘air quality regulation’ and ‘aesthetics and cultural services’. These are themes that are commonly used to justify new street tree or street tree retention initiatives. We argue that current scientific understanding of the impact of street trees on human health and the urban environment has been limited by predominantly regional-scale reductionist approaches which consider vegetation generally and/or single out individual services or impacts without considering the wider synergistic impacts of street trees on urban ecosystems. This can lead planners and policymakers towards decision making based on single parameter optimisation strategies which may be problematic when a single intervention offers different outcomes and has multiple effects and potential trade-offs in different places.

We suggest that a holistic approach is required to evaluate the services and disservices provided by street trees at different scales. We provide information to guide decision makers and planners in their attempts to evaluate the value of vegetation in their local setting. We show that by ensuring that the specific aim of the intervention, the scale of the desired biophysical effect and an awareness of a range of impacts guide the choice of i) tree species, ii) location and iii) density of tree placement, street trees can be an important tool for urban planners and designers in developing resilient and resourceful cities in an era of climatic change. 

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