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On spaces and communities

September 11, 2011
ASTMA at Cafe Orwell

Astma at Cafe Orwell

Bad news this week coming from all directions as not one but two of my favorite venues announced they’ll be closed indefinitely. First I heard that Valerie Kuehne’s Super Coda series would no longer be continuing at Cafe Orwell. This is really unfortunate, but I’d like to think that the projects she presents will only become more dynamic and interesting as she can find new and better spaces to explore. She wrote an insightful piece on the problems and needs for the arts in New York City that is very much worth your time on the Super Coda page.

Then in Philadelphia, the wonderful Bookspace was shut down by the city. According to the Onion AV Club article, they’re still selling books, but all events are being relocated until further notice. The space grew very quickly in a neighborhood that has a history of resisting spaces for culture and socializing.

There is something wrong with the fact that cities spend so many resources on their marquee arts centers and then proceed to view smaller venues and cultural spaces as nuisances. Tax revenues are probably similar when you compare a handful of small spaces to the city’s marquee concert halls, but there are many advantages to smaller spaces. They provide more jobs for the creative class,  increase the diversity of events in the city, and they provide neighborhood centers that can help build community.

I’m not suggesting everyone needs to put up with a loud neighborhood, but I do think that every community should have a place within walking distance where they can see cultural events. They might not be tourist destinations, but I do think they would go a long way to building better living experiences for the people within their city. This week is Philadelphia’s Live Arts and Fringe Festivals, and performances are happening in essentially every corner of the city. There’s no reason this should be a rarity, and I hope cities will begin to celebrate the benefits of neighborhood cultural hubs as well as premium spaces.

super awesome photo of Astma by IntagibleArts on flickr.

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