Urban Omnibus Article on Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts

A few months back, Interboro introduced us to the concept of the NORC, or naturally occurring retirement community. This got us wondering, what other kinds of uses tend to cluster, all on their own, in certain areas? Below, Tamara Greenfield, executive director of Fourth Arts Block (FAB), and Caron Atlas, a cultural organizer with the Arts + Community Change Initiative, share their thoughts with Cassim Shepard on how better understanding of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts, or NOCDs, can help inform a more holistic approach to cultural policy.

Few would argue with the notion that a robust cultural life is good for cities as well as neighborhoods. But how best to support it — through investments, incentives, philanthropy and public policy – is up for debate. Create new institutions and venues? Fund specific artists or projects? Incentivize cultural groups to move into your development or neighborhood from outside? Or learn from those examples where cultural opportunities emerged from the ground up?…To that end, FAB and Arts + Community Change have convened a series of roundtables in New York City with arts leaders, policy makers, and academics to develop a definition, identify support strategies, share effective case studies and initiate a working group that will continue advocating for policies to support existing NOCDs, while offering technical assistance to nascent organizing efforts in New York City. Read more about their initial findings in the interview below, and, while you’re at it, get a history lesson on one of New York’s most storied blocks. -C.S.

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