#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #9: Ann Markusen

So Ann Markusen is a professor at the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, and she is the director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.

I knew that I was going to include Ann Markusen in this discussion because she was an early influence on me. I came to planning from economics, and this does a lot of things to color your viewpoint, but one of the things it does, depending on how you were trained, is to make you perpetually skeptical of economic development. “Transfer effects” you sniff. Human capital development, you’ll buy. Place-based efforts? Eh. Transfer effects that foster either gentrification or throwing good money after bad.
You then view the people who foster such practices as well-intended ninnies who don’t get they are encouraging destructive competition between places and subjecting their own to winner’s curses.

This is wrong, but you don’t get to be the sort arrogant old person I am without being an arrogant young person first, and so this dialogue of sorts rummaged through my brain quite a bit in my classes about economic development at the University of Iowa when I was a master’s student. I did have excellent instructors there, Alan Peters and Heather MacDonald, who have since moved to more tropical environs, as anybody who lives in Iowa for too long really owes it to oneself to do.

All those self-indulgent reflections aside, Ann Markusen’s writing and thinking blasted into my lack of interest in economic development in the mid 1990s. Like Heather and Alan, her writing was, simply, too smart and interesting to ignore. And she did it to me twice. Once with economic development as an overall concept, and then again with arts and culture as part of economic development.

I have generally read everything of Ann’s that I have encountered since 1992 or so, but I know her only in passing. This paper appeared last year (2013) in Work & Occupation. The cite:

Markusen, A. 2013. “Artists Work Everywhere.” Work & Occupations. 40: 481-495.

This is a policy brief, and it aims to examine where artists live and their migration patterns. This is one of those papers that isn’t going to make anybody excited over methods or data; it’s just a report that gets people think differently than they tend to about artists and where/how they live. From La Boheme onward, we’ve had a very particular image of what artists are: young dreamers, struggling to make it in a big market and living, loud and proud, in splendid squalor in the middle of the most romantic downtowns out there: Paris, London and, of course, New York.

Using PUMS data, Markusen demonstrates that this image is a bit off.* There is a sizable number of artists over 65 working in many industries and living about as far outside of bohemian artist garrets as one possibly can. And even in the arts supercities (LA and New York), plenty of artists live in the suburbs in those regions.** Markusen uses location quotients, with caution, to note that LA and New York do have more as a share of total employment than other metro areas, in general, but that those two metro areas only have a little over 10 percent of all those employed in arts and culture industries. They report that second-tier metros like DC, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Miami also have higher shares than the national average.

The more interesting story concerns migration and reverse migration among artists. Migration to and from supercities for artists splits by type of artist and by age. Up to about age 35, artists flock to the supercities. Artists over 35, when they move, tend to move away from the supercities:

Qualitative work and case studies suggest that many reverse migrants, especially visual artists and writers but also musicians, are seasoned, successful, midcareer people who have both gallery represen- tation and publishers in arts market cities or who can travel to act or perform anywhere. Two well-documented cases—New York Mills (MN) and Arnaudville (LA)—involve visual artists who not only chose to live in small towns for amenities, affordable quality workspace, and family reasons but also brought skills that transformed their towns and communities. Painter John Davis bought a roomy farmhouse and barn in rural New York Mills, many hours from a major metro, to paint in peace, and ended up spearheading the creation of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center (Cuesta, Gillespie, & Lillis, 2005; Markusen & Johnson, 2006). Painter George Marks returned home to the tiny hamlet of Arnaudville to care for his dying father and stayed to lead a revitalization effort using visual art, Cajun music, and French language


Paint in peace? What the heck? Hasn’t he read Ed Glaesar? Doesn’t he know that he can only be innovative when he’s got 18 million other people yakking on their cell phones around him?

So some artists move to supercities, find a market and representation, and get their brand established, then move out when they can, probably to paint in peace and not pay out the nose for apartments they have to share with roommates and mega-rats. Or just to go back home, a call I hear now and then myself.

Musicians are the most dispersed of the artists, which I think is very interesting, though I have to admit: I know a lot of studio musicians in LA who live in the Valley. I need to think about this one. And that’s the point. Markusen always makes me think.

*But the fantasy is still pretty cool, except for the dying from TB part, even if that makes for pretty great opera:

**Squalid garrets I suspect are much less fun when Placido Domingo is not your roommate.