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Addressing socio-economic inclusiveness in arts districts

In the midst of our city’s “spirited” debates about socio-economic inclusiveness and economic development comes a discussion of the issue from an arts district perspective at a panel for attendees of next week’s Creative Communities Exchange 2013.

The Strengthening Inclusive Communities panel, pulled together by Tim Honey, focuses on how urban arts districts (such as Portland’s) can support inclusive communities, including the urban poor and marginalized citizens who may be displaced by gentrification.
The discussion is timely for Portland, where current, very hot-button topics include the fate of Congress Square Plaza, proposed legislation against panhandlers in medians, and the impact of a growing homeless population. 
“We want to look at the role that the creative community has in finding solutions to the challenges facing the marginalized and urban poor,” says Honey, a Portland-based government consultant and Creative Portland board member.


The discussion will feature arts leaders in Portland and Hartford, cities that face similar challenges.
Portland representatives include:
Marty Pottenger, director of Portland’s Art at Work Initiative, is moderating the panel, which is subtitled “Creative Partnerships Within Urban Art’s Districts Focused Upon the Urban Poor.”

The discussion

Honey’s planning document for the panel captures some of the challenges inherent in evolving arts districts:
Arts districts must “be sensitive to some of the negative aspects of being in an urban neighborhood in the middle of the city. The users and patrons of the arts often have a strong need for a safe and civil community environment. It is sometimes difficult to promote the arts in a neighborhood where street panhandlers, alcoholics and the homeless are present, and a negative neighborhood image is created.”
While acknowledging challenges, the panel is based on the admirable belief that arts districts “can promote creative problem solving on issues that affect their cities, and should be in the forefront of promoting a set of community-based core values, including inclusiveness, tolerance, and hope.”
All of this should make for a lively discussion about a growing issue that requires a heap of creative problem solving.
We will be reporting on the discussion next week.

The conference

Co-hosted by New England Foundation for the Arts and Creative Portland, the conference runs from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 6-7, at Maine College of Art.
The England Foundation for the Arts describes the conference as a place where New England arts leaders “exchange innovative ideas, strengthen our network, and offer practical advice on building our creative communities. We will explore the creative assets of New England and learn how – through connections, influence, vision, leadership, and patience – the creative sector continues to breathe life and opportunity into the region.”

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