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Eight Common Themes
. ONE: Synergy and Critical Mass. An arts or cultural facility by itself is unlikely to change its surrounding environment. Thus, it takes more than a single facility, even one with great drama and imaginative design, to bring life to a district or a downtown. Success is usually based on a blending of attractions that support each other over time.

TWO: Identity. The identity of a district is stronger than any of its individual components. Arts and cultural districts benefit from marketing the identity of their district. They communicate to a regional audience (often including out-of-town visitors) the happenings in the district. Creating identity markets a destination that combines an array of activities artistic and commercial for success.

THREE: Heart of Downtown. The best location is almost always in the heart of downtown. The greatest benefits for the cultural community, downtown and the region are derived when the arts are woven directly into the fabric of downtown. When downtown is the location, the widest audience is reached, and the greatest synergy is developed.

FOUR: Sustain a Vision. A successful arts or cultural district needs committed investors and a steward of the vision. Without people to lead and sustain the vision, even the best art and cultural models would not survive past the idea stage. The seven cities had committed public or philanthropic investors willing to put their resources at risk at critical times to ensure continued advancement of the vision.

FIVE: Historic and Cultural Anchors. New investment needs to use existing assets. Nearly every American city contains important cultural resources. Often the best way for downtowns to re-establish themselves as regional cultural centers is to build on existing strengths and historical anchors, not replace them.

SIX: Stretch the Boundaries. The most successful organizations have ventured far beyond traditional arts boundaries. Leaders of art and cultural districts must be prepared to do whatever it takes to create an atmosphere of success. It may be helping to restore historic storefronts, design streetscapes or open a ticket business. The best structures move freely between civic, commercial and cultural worlds.

SEVEN: Beyond Buildings. The hardest work comes after the buildings are built, not before. Even the best venue can fail with weak marketing, management and programming. Likewise, "weaker" venues or designs can succeed when management and marketing are strong. All venues need capable, professional staff to enhance their volunteer leadership.

EIGHT: Artist as Asset. Often, too little attention is paid to the viability of arts organizations and artists. Buildings don't make art; artists make art. Artists and art organizations are key to successful cultural centers. They are the reason venues draw people to downtown

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