Art Matters: 2014 Loeb Alumni Council Grant Report

This week the LOEBlog features accounts of three 2013-14 Loeb Alumni Council Grant projects, starting with a 1-day international conference organized by Helen Marriage and Ann Yoakim (both LF ’13). “Art Means Business: How Culture Can Change the World,” was held in Durham, England, and scheduled to coincide with the Lumiere Festival, the UK’s largest light festival, produced by Marriage’s organization Artichoke. In addition to Marriage and Yoachim, 4 other Loeb Fellows participated: Rick Lowe (LF ’02), Susannah Sayler (LF ’09), Deidre Schmidt (LF ’08) and Edward Walker (LF ’13).

The following is excerpted from the grant report:

The event brought together visionaries and policymakers from the worlds of urban planning, local government and business in the UK and around the world, inviting them to share ideas for how the creative industries can offer innovative solutions for intractable problems and re-imagine the city of the twenty-first century.

Durham is a small city with big ambitions and huge problems to address. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet still affected by the collapse of the coal and steel industries, it has been using culture proactively as part of a regeneration agenda, but also to drive inward investment and enhance its credentials as a great place to live.

“Art Means Business: How Culture Can Change the World” proposed to examine current strategies for improving the resilience of small cities under economic duress; encourage dialogue between local and international practitioners and produce innovative thinking to combat social division, poverty, economic downfall and environmental disaster. Underpinning these discussions was the role that culture, in its widest sense, can play in developing community cohesion by establishing hope, pride, tolerance, joy and love.

Often thinking is limited to what is already considered possible within the existing political constraints, social norms, and geographic boundaries of a place. Art Means Business was designed to expand what is considered possible and to encourage the development of innovative solutions for Durham and beyond.

The conference was divided into five sessions:

  • People
  • Places
  • Public & Private Investment
  • Planet
  • Policy.

Each session explored case studies – from the UK, the US, the Philippines and Venezuela. Lumiere offered an ideal backdrop as the illustration of the transformative impact of art and culture on individuals, communities and places, while the conference complemented Lumiere, providing it with a platform to discuss and share its wider aims and intentions.

Over 140 professionals, including eminent American thinkers and practitioners and most of Europe’s cultural attachés to the UK, attended the conference. Art Means Business inspired the audience with stories of success, where art and culture have been a means but also an end for place-making, social development, economic growth, community empowerment and urban regeneration; such stories will reach corners around the world leading to new ideas and solutions for the contemporary city.

Read a further summary of the event.
Read coverage of the conference in The Guardian.
See the conference  schedule and speaker bios.

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