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Economy

Indie Art Has a Walkability Problem

The clustering of artists at First Friday events highlights how affordability usually constrains small-scale art to less-prominent spaces.
People gather in the street near an open gallery in Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood for a "First Friday" event.
People gather in the street near an open gallery in Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood for a "First Friday" event.Bob Krist/Visit Philadelphia

In cities across the country, galleries and museums in creative districts open their doors on the first Friday of each month for walks that fuse art and urbanism. These strolls are a natural fit because art venues tend to cluster in specific areas to feed off one another—examples range from the Wynwood Arts District in Miami to New York’s Midtown and the Noho Arts District in Los Angeles to Atlanta’s Midtown. But to what extent do the arts and walkability really go together?

A new study by Elizabeth Mack, Emily Talen, and Julia Koschinsky, published in Economic Development Quarterly, takes a close look. The big takeaway: It’s larger art galleries and art-related businesses that cluster in denser, walkable neighborhoods close to the urban core that we trek through on First Fridays. Smaller arts businesses and organizations tend to locate in less-pricey, less-walkable, and less-central neighborhoods.