Weekly REDEW: Putting Art at IKEA

It’s that time again for the regular feature we like to call REDEW: the Random Economic Development Email of the Week. Which is exactly what it sounds like…me talking about random emails that I receive that have something to do with economic development. Now, usually these REDEWs center around emails that I receive from various listservs and mailing lists that I somehow get added to. But this week I’m pleased to present an actual email sent from a real person to me. How could that be random, you ask? Well, just wait to read it. And by it, I mean the “Weekly REDEW: Putting Art at IKEA.”

Here’s what I received from a contact at the Seattle Art Museum:

Hi, Eric:

This is a bit of a random question. We are working on some special partnerships with businesses and organizations throughout the region for our upcoming exhibition Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth. In specific, we are trying to contact IKEA about bringing an element of the exhibition to their store. Our contact seems to be gone, and we can’t find a human to talk to there. I was wondering if you might have a contact at IKEA that you’ve worked with and that you would be willing to pass along.

Thanks in advance for your help. I hope things are going well with the Partnership.

Man, do I love Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (obviously a different Nick Cave than this artist, but still…in my moody teenage years, I could listen to “Red Right Hand” over and over again). But what I love even more than that is art in non-traditional locations. Ask someone sometime about the tableau vivant performance I did of Manet’s “Lunch on the Grass” at an art event in the forest (true story). There’s something about taking art out of its formal surroundings (a museum or a theater) that gets people much more interactive with and/or emotionally engaged in work.

The most traditional example of art outside of a formal setting is public art, which of course is used throughout the country as a…wait for it…economic development tool! We talk all the time at Prosperity Partnership about the importance of quality of life as a tool to attract and retain highly talented employees (hence our work on the Cultural Access Fund); the quality of place that public art helps contribute to is a major part of that talent attraction and retention strategy.

Yet, art = quality of life only if  people actually enjoy it. Which is what makes this article relevant:

It is no surprise to most of us that the arts are in a parlous state. But contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the fault of unions, the absence of arts education in our schools, the lack of involvement by boards, or even a dearth of arts management training.

The arts are in trouble because there is simply not enough excellent art being created…

Today, far more inventiveness can be found in popular entertainment than can be found in the classic arts. The embracing of new technologies and the willingness to try new things seems to have become more the province of rock music and movies than of opera, ballet and theater. We are losing the attention of Americans because we are not producing work that is new, fresh and daring. (emphasis added)

I wrote a few weeks ago about how big an economic impact the arts currently have. But that impact will only maintain if the arts are a compelling part of our region’s culture. Which requires innovation, attention to shifting customer tastes and willingness to engage in creative public-private partnerships of mutual benefit. And this is especially true for a region whose international brand is innovation in all forms.

And so the fact that the Seattle Art Museum is trying to form a partnership with IKEA is exciting. It’s very much an example of what Michael Kaiser is referring to in his piece, above. Even more so,  the impact of a SAM exhibit at IKEA is not only increased interest in attending the museum but also an increase in the overall number of people who experience the art (folks who go to IKEA but not SAM). Which – as many experts know – is key to generating ongoing interest in the arts. Which is key to community support for the arts’ ongoing existence. Which is key to the quality of life that leads to talent attraction that leads to economic development. And the cycle is complete.

By the way, I’m pretty sure that, about 10 years ago, 4Culture funded a performance at IKEA of a couple pretending to get into a huge fight at that IKEA. Apparently the IKEA in Renton is the go-to place for reaching the masses. (Go there on a Saturday…I’m pretty sure the masses are all there at the same time…and if you do, get the Swedish meatballs.)

Finally, I’d like to point out that this is my second Renton-centric post in a row. First, an analysis of the 737 rebuild, now musings on the Renton IKEA. What’s next, a Weekly C-POW on the only Hooters Restaurant in the country that’s also a casino and a bowling alley?

UPDATE: The good folks on the City of Renton’s economic development team put SAM in touch with the right folks from IKEA. Discussions are in the works!

One Response to Weekly REDEW: Putting Art at IKEA

  1. Alex Pietsch says:

    Ahead of the Curve, man, Ahead of the Curve.

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