…and the Eagles don’t suck, either.

The current mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, is making some smart decisions in his approach to arts policy in his city.

For one, he re-opened the Office of Arts and Culture just after taking office (former mayor John Street – yeah, the guy whose team was so corrupt the FBI bugged his office – closed it in 2004) and renamed it the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. Note the ‘creative economy’ piece – and though names are pretty meaningless, there are other signs he actually understands the economic role of arts and culture. Check out this AP article:

  • Philadelphia Cultural Fund has an increased budget in this fiscal year from the previous one;
  • Nutter knows the numbers: 40,000 people in the area are employed in arts & culture, which generates more than $1B for Philly’s economy annually; more people visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art every year than attend a season of Eagles games (though the way this is written strikes me as odd – specious to compare an annual activity to attending an entire season’s worth of games)
  • Nutter is also pushing for the creative work in Philadelphia to engage kids:

“If you stay out in the elements too long, you will die from exposure,” he said. “In Philadelphia, part of our challenge is our kids die from lack of exposure, in many instances having no idea what’s going on three blocks around their house.”

Why do we like this statement? Because he’s not speaking directly to arts education – which is crucial, and underfunded, etc, but too often the only way that political leaders understand the connection between the arts and people’s daily lives. He’s talking about accessibility and availability of the art itself to kids. Yes, yes, YES.  Doing a better job connecting the work your city’s groups are making to the other people who live right there is how you build community and creative economy. Though it’s not exclusive to kids. Check out, for a great example, the Classical Theatre of Harlem – a company truly dedicated to creating work of and for its community.

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