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UK Town Shows Complexity of Arts-Led Regeneration

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Aug 10, 2016

While arts organizations rightfully point to the arts as a valuable contribution to local communities, research on Margate, a coastal UK town, shows that arts-led redevelopment can have negative consequences for traditional arts communities. Five years ago, Margate opened the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery. It has exhibited international artists and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to what has, in the last decade, been a slow Margate economy. However, according to the Guardian, the arts resurgence has “failed to support local artists, which risks undermining the sustainability of the arts scene.”

“Margate’s got all the cool people coming in. It might become a very cool place to be, a very middle-class place to be, but is that really solving the problem of entrenched poverty and social exclusion in the town? East London is now a very expensive place to be but the gentrification there didn’t solve its social problems. They moved elsewhere,” says Jonathan Ward a researching in cultural labour at Leeds University and author of “Down by the sea: visual arts, artists and coastal regeneration.”

While these concerns exist, locals also point to programs like the Turner Contemporary’s Art Inspiring Change project, “in which 80 pupils from four primary schools, including some on the town’s most deprived estates, will work with artists, a philosopher and gallery staff to transform their local neighbourhoods.

Ultimately, Margate displays tensions that are present across the United States: a need for culturally-driven economic development alongside a requirement to preserve the stability and opportunity for longtime residents. How that tension is negotiated may predicate the success or failure of arts-led redevelopment.

Read more here.

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