Mobilization of the Arts
Joseph W. Ruane

Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science

Sociologists have studied the world of art in identifying role differentiation (Parsons, 1951: 408-14), the deviance within jazz subcultures (Becker, 1963), the structures within which the artist survives (Crane, 1987), or the art world itself as the unit of analysis (Becker, 1982). Our interest will be an extension of the commercial elements surrounding art.
In writing about Art and the State, Becker (1982: 165) relates that states and the governmental apparatus which they operate, participate in the production and distribution of art within their borders. He goes on to say that many states regard art more or less as a good thing, at the very least as a sign of cultural development. To support art the state makes laws and regulations which favor the arts and artists. An artistıs work is treated as commodity, protected by property laws and copyright laws. While state laws providing for the production, marketing, selling and distribution of art usually is not directly concerned with art, but with any manufactured product, art and artists benefit from such laws. The state, however, can become intricately involved with art and artists when the art challenges views of the society. The recent Mapplethorpe disputes over the portrayal of the American flag in conjunction with nudity moved the government to restrict grant funds from schools or museums that would teach, encourage or exhibit such art. Censorship of art varies as Becker points out (1982:166) in the example in which one state may censor art depicting the mixture of races while another state may demand it. Such state involvement also affects the careers of the artists whose works are praised or criticized.
States may use art to mobilize the country politically through images and music, or the state (Becker. 1982:181) may see the arts as integral to national interests, as in the opera to Italy, and for that interest subsidize it. The use of the national anthem of each country would be an example of the use of music to create national solidarity. Bourdieu and Haacke (1995:11) note that artists need to exhibit in museums to place their works on the market or to receive public funding. Museums need to be recognized by public authorities in order to have sponsors. All of this creates intersecting pressures and dependencies. The artistıs painting must be judged in a gallery or museum before the artist receives any recognition. It is the basic code of the art world.
As art plays a function for the state and the museums, so it plays a role for the city or metropolitan areas in which the art is displayed. This paper highlights another use of the art world. Art is a commodity which can be packaged to draw an audience which is economically important to the city in which the art is displayed. The current decline in federal financing of urban centers and the loss of revenues from a declining tax base spawned by the loss of manufacturing jobs brings to light the evolving efforts of municipal governments to attract tourists to their cities. In a service economy tourists become big business, and tourism becomes a major facet of the economy.
The city of Philadelphia recently gave the symbolic name ³Avenue of the Arts² to the major street in the city, Broad Street. The repaving of the street in stylized tile, and the announcement of a new Performing Arts Center for The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Ballet were highlights of a festival to celebrate this redesignation of a public street dedicated to the arts. The festival itself was sponsored by Corestates Bank which has made a continuing commitment to support this new designation of the avenue. With Corestates also financing, along with the city, the cost of the new Corestates Center, jointly owned by Comcast and Spectator, and built on city owned land, to be the home of the professional organizations of the Philadelphia Flyers and the 76ers, the question of how far will privatization go in the interest of city economics is being raised.
The renovation of a stately historic library building as a new location for the city High School of Performing Arts is an example of the project to attract the major arts organizations to locate along the avenue which already houses among others the Academy of Music, the University of the Arts, several jazz houses and restaurants, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts. It has legitimate theater staged at the Merriam Theater, the new Wilma Theater. and Freedom Theater. The Philadelphia Opera Company and other cultural groups perform at the Academy of Music and the Merriam Theater. In the effort to dramatize the use of the ³Avenue of the Arts² $15 million, with most money coming from a federal grant, was spent on renovations. The avenue is meant to be a streetscape, something to be viewed in itself. Bells hanging from the period piece light standards along a half-mile stretch represent part of the public art component of the largely federally financed streetscape project. The $190,000 art piece of 39 small bronze bells is connected to a computerized keyboard housed in the Academy of Music, and is called ³sound sculpture² by the artist. Colorful banners on the light standards announce and identify the avenue. With a variety of artists from musicians to dancers, from jazz to opera, from visual to performing artists all working on the same avenue the expectation is that people will again fill the streets in the evening as well as during the day when businessmen and women and students at the University of the Arts predominate along the street. The several jazz clubs and restaurants and the many theaters should be attractions for tourists and conventioneers. The ³Avenue of the Arts² mobilizes all these performers not only to show off the arts, but primarily to enhance the economic vitality of the area which already contains at least two five star restaurants within a few blocks of the street.
The symbolic redesignation of the ³Avenue of the Arts² marks the latest city effort to capitalize on the arts. Another project in progress is the reconfiguration of the Independence Hall Mall. This also will be a multimillion dollar facelift financed by the federal government, city and private foundations working to make a more attractive and aesthetically inviting tourist attraction. Present plans speak of closing off traffic on some streets for pedestrian use (as well as further protection from a bombing by trucks such as in Oklahoma City), a new aesthetically pleasing pavilion to house the Liberty Bell for better viewing from tourist crowds and passerby, and a new Constitution Hall to house the writings of the earliest drafts of the U.S. constitution. This last will be privately funded by the Pew Foundation which has a major interest in making private decisions in and about public areas, with the all important money to back up their desires. An appealing architectural design of this area is important in all of the discussion surrounding the redevelopment. Sought is a design which will attract people to Socialize, rather than looking at the Liberty Bell and Independence hall and quickly leaving the city. The longer it takes to tour the area, the more likely the tourist will spend the night in Philadelphia or nearby New Jersey, adding more money to the economy of the area. There is another large city block that is part of the park which is also part of the plan that the National Park Service and city plan to redesign, but only after there is agreement on the three major blocks of the mall.
The City of Philadelphia has many pieces of public art in which it takes pride. In the new Pennsylvania Convention Center it is possible to take a tour of the art displayed in the building. When the building was under construction artists were invited to submit their work to a competition. The art selected by the judges was then displayed throughout the convention center. One of the major sculptures hangs above the famous train shed. The city also invites artists to display their work in the hallways of City Hall for a few months of the year. Some artists have been disinvited, however, when citizens disapprove of what the artist exhibited. The work may not be seen as politically correct. Again an example of the positive and negative role of government intervention in the world of art.
The city itself has been ambivalent toward art. A famous Lipchitz statue of ³Government of the People² standing on the plaza across from City Hall was denounced by former Mayor Frank Rizzo who said, ³I looked at it, and I tried to be fair. It looked like some plasters had dropped a load of plaster² (Bach1992:141). The Lipchitz work was commissioned in 1967 to satisfy the one percent requirement when the Municipal Services Building was constructed. After much dispute it was erected in 1975. Just recently in 1996 the Municipal Services Building was vastly renovated and a new one percent installation called ³Your Move,² consisting of a number of brightly colored game pieces such as chess pieces, Parchesi tokens, dominoes and bingo counters which are scattered about the plaza. This to has been challenged as a waste of $195,000 by city elected officials who do not see the whimsical display of art, or find it inappropriate in the formal setting of the business world. Sozanski (1996b) remarks that public art bureaucrats must expect that people will disagree with the tastes of the bureaucrats periodically when art is in question. he notes that in 1980 an outdoor sculpture ³Tilted Arc,² a 120 foot long, 12 foot high slab of steel erected on the Federal Plaza at Foley Square in New York City caused such a brouhaha as an obstacle to pedestrians that it was eventually dismantled. Then again, there is the controversy around the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. which in the long run captured the hearts of the public who visit there often.
Financing has also been haphazard. City funding for the arts was eliminated during the fiscal crisis of the 1980ıs, but restored in 1992 by current Mayor Edward Rendell. At the time according to Stephen Salisbury, a Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, Rendell was looking for a way to work with the arts and it was suggested that a cultural fund be part of future city budgets. City funding now stand at $1 million annually. Part of this money is used to restore major art pieces which have deteriorated out in the open air.
The city is planning a hotel for Pennıs Landing to further attract visitors, and the focus of the development for new convention center was to bring more visitors to the city with larger convention facilities and hotels. To build the convention center an entire center city area of almost six blocks square were demolished. The building encroached on the Chinatown area, taking some homes and businesses, but care was taken that this ethnically attractive community of restaurants and residents would not be displaced and lost as a tourist attraction. Financing for the convention center came from the city, state and lastly from a major hotel. Here private land was turned public, then again privatized as the entire area became a commodity to attract conventions and business to the city. In passing, the commercial areas that had public and private financing, such as the Gallery Mall and One Liberty Place, the cityıs first building to be taller than City Hall, and its mall were each built to attract people and business to center city. The third large public space mentioned above, Fairmount Park, is the largest park within any city in the country. The use of the Fairmount Park for reunions of African American Greek Fraternities and the Black Family Reunion and other major events for thousands of people is encouraged by the city. The park holds most of the public art which the city owns. The city has the largest collection of public art in the U.S. Philadelphia has had a law since 1959 stipulating that all new construction in the city must relegate on e percent of the cost to art for the building. This has served to present much visual art to the city. Becker (1984:165) indicated the importance of the government in the production and distribution of art, and the one-percent law in Philadelphia is a good example beyond what he may of had in mind.
Certainly given the examples found in the city of Philadelphia, one can understand the concept of mobilizing the arts to meet the economic interests of the municipal government. The city of San Diego aided the $9.5 million dollar transformation of the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla in a move that, as Edward Sozanski (1996) notes, creates an oceanfront building that is being promoted as an attraction in itself. Sozanski identifies other art museums built as attractions themselves. In San Francisco, the $62 million dollar San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in Chicago, the $46 million dollar Museum of Contemporary Art in the heart of Michigan Avenue shopping district, the $3.75 million Miami Museum of Contemporary Art built in North Miami, and plans underway for a new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to be built on 11 acres of land acquired by the city in the center of its cultural district all demonstrate programs to attract people not only to the art in the museum, but also to view the museum and the museum site itself. These buildings point up a feature of such museums today: not only are they a cultural experience, but they are a venue for socializing, they are an added attraction for visiting the city in which they are located.
This change in the function of the art museum began to change in the 1970ıs according to Diane Crane (1987:107) as a result of financial deficits incurred by the museums. There are indications that the goals of museums were becoming administrative and financial rather than professional. The new role required museums to serve a broader segment of the public, and to offer a range of exhibits. Activities once oriented toward collectors, patrons, critics, artists and dealers now became oriented to an interorganizational network involving government agencies and corporations more capable to fund exhibitions and to a wider paying general public. Crane (1987:109) notes the social class differentiation diminished somewhat. In Philadelphia this had led to free admission on Sunday mornings to inaugurate the neophytes into the arts as potential subscribers.
A concomitant use of art to lure visitors to the city was the public private venture by the city of Philadelphia and its Department of Commerce, the hotel association of the city and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in its production of the Cezanne exhibit in 1996. By offering combined packages for museum and hotel reservations more than 700,000 people came to the city, and hotels were filled to 87% capacity during the hot summer months when usually they do 60% business. Again the point is that the city saw the use of its public facility, the Art Museum, as an opportunity to sell the city. The museum, the hotels and the city itself were virtually turned into a commodity advertised in one package. The great success of the Cezanne event resulted from the previous exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum of the Barnes Exhibit. A famous collection heretofore only viewed in the private museum of the Barnes Foundation mansion which had very limited space and visiting hours were permitted to leave the museum for a three city tour only after a court hearing. Its success was partially due to the notoriety of the collection and the eccentricities of Barnes. While it was advertised, the packaging was not orchestrated as the Cezanne exhibit which learned from the Barnes success. Once the city and hotel association realized the potential of such exhibits the commoditization of the hotels and city along with the Cezanne exhibit seemed natural. Now plans are underway to bring in another blockbuster exhibit next spring with the same efforts to mobilize the cooperation of the museum, the hotels and the city in advertisement of the event.
Not only the major event is involved in such mobilization, but also peripheral museums coordinate showings to be listed in the major tourist package distributed by the commerce department. For example, an organization, Arts West, promotes the dozen or so museums, galleries, dance studios, and cultural centers in the West Philadelphia, University City area, including museums at the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and such historical sites as the Paul Robeson House or the internationally famous Phildanco Dancers. Arts West recently was awarded a $10 million grant to highlight and organize all of the cultural entities in West Philadelphia into one promotional package with an Executive Director to manage the ongoing cooperating network. Another example is the inclusion in the hotel packages brochures of other important museums and sited such as the Brandywine Museum, the beautiful Longwood Gardens, or Winterthur Museum, all about 25 miles from the city of Philadelphia as potential side trips while visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and other sites in conjunction with the Cezanne exhibit. The tourist packages also include shopping possibilities at King of Prussia and Franklin Mills, the latter which incidentally draws more tourists to the city than Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell.
This mobilization of the arts is not new, but the recognition of it as a program policy in process today is more evident. The Kennedy Center was used to call the arts to the attention of all Americans. It was constructed to give the United States a focal art center in its capital. There was a defined intention to educate Americans, especially the middle-class and working class, with the idea that the elements of higher culture, painting, sculpture, orchestral music, etc. was important to being a great country.
In New York City, however, we may have seen the beginning of the move to collect similar attractions in a single area with the growth of the area between 165th and 166th Streets defined as Lincoln Center. An old area of brownstone houses and apartment houses was demolished to make room for a center of performing arts. The Metropolitan Opera moved performances from 39th Street. Juliard School moved from 122nd Street. The Vivian Beaumont Theater was constructed along with the Lincoln Center for the performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and for stage productions. In the congregation of buildings for the arts at Lincoln Center we see the designation of a center to draw attention not only to one phase of the cityıs offerings, but rather it was the intent of the planners that the Beaumont Theater would be Americaıs answer to the National Theater in London. The theater, which opened in 1965, faired poorly as late as 1984 when its reserves were depleted. Board members Linda Janklow, who now chairs the board, met with three others to reorganize efforts which today have resulted in a $25 million annual budget and a membership of 41,000 playgoers so devoted that a waiting list of 12,000 names exists. Together with its smaller sister theater, the Mitzu E. Newhouse, the Beaumont now occupies the central role in the cultural life of New York City to mobilize the arts as part of redevelopment, on the other hand its present success is raising concerns of how commercial should the Center become. It earns 75% of its budget at the box office, which according to Peter Marks writing in the New York Times, is an extraordinarily high percentage for a nonprofit theater. The board of directors raises another $6 to $8 million annually. In other words, while the impetus came from city planning, the present budget is the responsibility of the theater. Consequently, strategies have been developed to market the productions staged as well as marketing the subscriptions to the Beaumont Theater itself.
There are serious issues of co-optation when corporations become interested in the arts. This is not to say that the same problem arises with any patron, but the corporate philosophy is precise as noted by the executive committee chairman of Phillip Morris: ³Letıs be clear about one thing. Our fundamental interest in the arts is self-interest. There are immediate and pragmatic benefits to be derived as business entities.² The source for his remarks is Philip Morris and the Arts, Remarks by George Weissman,² The First Annual Symposium, Mayorıs Commission on the Arts and Business Committee for the Arts, in Denver, 5 September 1980 (Bordieu-Haake, 1995:8). Further, it is interesting that the remarks are made at a government and business meeting on the arts. The city of Denver saw a need to include business in its development of the arts, and business saw it in their interests.
Social elites gradually lost control over art institutions as the government and corporations gained the control (Crane, 1987:142) and such control can be detrimental to the growth of new forms of art freely exchanged in the public domain. Bourdieu and Haacke (1995:45, 48) mention the right-wing funding of the Olin, Scaife, Smith Richardson and Bradley foundations and the role of Jesse Helms in the Mapplethorpe controversy, but then again, they later note (p.54) that any patronage is a subtle form of domination that acts thanks to the fact that it is not perceived as such since there is complicity with the artist who accepts the contract. Sponsors like to associate themselves abstractly with the Bill of Rights but are nowhere to be seen when free expression is under attack in the practical world (Bourdieu and Haacke, 1995:10-11).
For the government and corporations to cooperate with museums to fill the galleries and streets of the city with art lovers there is the challenge to find works of artists who have a large appeal. This necessarily will move the choice to traditional masters rather than selective innovators, but then the response must be, would Picasso have been exhibited in major museums in the 1920ıs?


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Becker, Howard S., 1963. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance., The Free Press, New York.

______1982. Art Worlds, University of California, Berkeley.

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Bourdieu, Pierre, 1996. The Rules of Art Genesis and Structure of the literary Field, translated by Susan Emanuel, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Crane, Diane, 1987. The Transformation of the Avante-Garde, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Marks, Peter, 1996. ³Itıs a Success, but Is That Enough?² The New York Times, New York., Section 2 pp.1, 37.

Parsons, Talcott, 1951. The Social System, The Free Press, New York.

Salisbury, Stephen, 1996. ³Cultural Allianceıs boss resigns.² The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia.

Sozanski, Edward J., 1996. ³Cubism and Cappuccino.² The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, pp.E5, E12.

_______ 1996b. ³Is ŒYour Moveı right for Center City plaza?² The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 November, Section F, 1, 15.

Zukin, Sharon, 1996. ³Representing New Yorkıs Symbolic Economy: Dialogues between High and Low Culture in Public Space² American Sociological Association Convention, 16 August.

The Journal of The Sociology of Art

Frostburg State University