2015: The Rust Belt

Contradictions of the Rustbelt Chic: Investigation of Arts and Redevelopment in Cleveland, Erie, Toledo, and Detroit

October 19-23

The five-day intensive program focused on the cities of Erie, Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit – cities that, in recent years, have come to exemplify “rustbelt chic.” The term “rustbelt chic” is most often referred to as a development model or a branding strategy for postindustrial US cities. These strategies typically rely on arts organizations and cultural producers to contribute to the rebuilding of a city’s revived image. However, it also poses issues of sustainability because of its unpredictable capital investments in culture. Though “rustbelt chic” may be specifically American, city-branding strategies involving the arts are facing arts mangers on a global scale.

The idea of rustbelt chic is often put in opposition to Richard Florida’s creative class theory, according to which “creative professionals” drive economic development in cities suffering from economic recession. Rustbelt chic conversely stands for development strategies that build on the authenticity and affirmation of declining urbanity. In either case, arts and cultural activities feature prominently in urban revitalization strategies.

The students confronted a series questions that arise from these theories, including consideration of the function of arts and cultural organizations in urban development strategies, how arts and cultural organizations and initiatives address common problems of postindustrial US cities, and strategies that cultural and arts organizations have used to deal with the cultural and social specificities of rustbelt cities in order to contribute to revitalization.