Frida Kahlo Takes on Brian Westbrook and Wins
Ok, back to business.
Exciting news from Philly's City Hall Friday, as Mayor Michael Nutter announced the opening of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (Henceforth, OACCE), a Frankenversion of the old Office of Arts and Culture (OAC). I've blogged about it before, recalling Nutter's campaign promise to re-animate the office somewhere between his inauguration and lunch of that afternoon. The closing of the OAC, shuttered by Former Mayor John Street four years ago, left Philly, as Inquirer writer Patrick Kerkstra noted "the biggest city in the country to lack a cultural affairs office."
Street's lack of faith in a scene just beginning to garner national attention put a real dent in everyone's confidence. So during the last mayoral primary and election, the city's arts community threw its support behind arts- and gay-friendly Nutter (you can't have one without the other, he wisely realized; Street, however, alienated both groups), hoping to rekindle some of the Ed Rendell-era fire that once lit up the Avenue of the Arts.
And, people figured, anyone in this town brave enough to call attention to the fact that the Phila. Muesum of Art's annual attendance is higher than attendance for birds games (Eagles games to you)--DURING his campaign!--might be crazy enough to make a difference. But six months into the new honcho's tenure, when the office remained closed, Philly's arts leaders were left wondering if they were suckered.
Well, now it looks like they weren't. What's promising about this new version of the OACCE is the addition to its title, an assertion that civic support for the arts is integral to the region's economic health. Heading up the office is Gary Steuer, former New York-based veep of Americans for the Arts. The organization advocates for public-private arts partnerships and tracks congressional activity and other public policy related to the arts. (Their weekly news digest also makes great companion reading with your daily ArtsJournal newsletter.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, Americans for the Arts held its national convention here last month, and it just so happens that their mandate appears pretty darn close to the mayor's promises, right on down to reinstating music and art education in the public schools.
But that's not all. Nutter also re-opened the city's Cultural Advisory Council, a group that advises the mayor and his administration on cultural and artistic issues, and said he hopes to make the OACCE a model for cities across the country. So good for him, and better for us. The economy's nosedive just might serve as the ideal petri dish to prove once and for all whether or not the arts--and its attendant "creative economy"--really can save us all.
Nutter's Delight: wherein the mayor rocks the inaugural mic (Obama, take note).