Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's (still) the economy, stupid*

Oh man.

Recently, the Pittsburgh art scene lost yet another gallery. LaVie was in operation for about two years. Their emphasis was on young and emerging artists. LaVie built a lot of credibility on its exhibits but it was also a lifestyle shop that offered arty products and graphic as well as event design services. Even with the wide range of endeavors that they were covering they still weren't able to keep the boat floating. It hasn't been that long, less than nine months, since Digging Pitt closed its doors; another monumental effort that fell by the wayside. But there are always others to take up the gauntlet, as was pointed out by Kurt Shaw in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review --
Still, there seems to be no end to new galleries opening up in Lawrenceville, with the latest, Luke & Eloy Gallery, planning to open Sept. 27 at 5169 Butler St. (Details: www.lukeandeloy.ning.com) ...

For whatever reason, opening an art gallery seems to be an attractive idea for many, regardless of the outcome; even in a place that clearly doesn't have a public that will support it. Such is life, or should I say c'est la vie? Read the article

In addition to the opening of Luke and Eloy Gallery, Zombo Gallery opened fairly recently in Larryville. So, for every closure, another gallery crops up to take its place. There is also the revolving venues along Penn Avenue, but with only one night each month to view the exhibits, it is difficult to build a meaningful presence. It's no wonder that so many of the visual arts venues in Pittsburgh resort to non-profit status, even though that isn't a guarantee of keeping the doors open.

Oh man, it just gets worse. It was announced today that the Carnegie Museum is taking over the day to day operations of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The festival budget, even with its shrinking and scattered footprint, is over $1million for the seventeen-day festival. CMoA has already released the festival's executive and associate directors. I am sure that there are other things in the works as they prioritize the budget. From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette --
"By taking this step now, we have an opportunity to not only better assess the organization's finances, but also re-evaluate its operations and its mission. An important first step -- and the responsible thing to do -- was to put a halt on most expenses until we complete that assessment," David Hillenbrand, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said in a prepared statement yesterday. Read the article

So, what will happen to the 2009 festival is anyone's guess. There is some question about whether or not the festival will ever regain its home in Point Park or if it will be relegated to scrambling for exhibit space as it has done for the last few years.

Finally, the trend that has been making itself felt in the rest of the country is making itself felt here. I'm not talking about short pants for men, I'm talking about falling home prices. Do you realize how bad things have to be to impact an already depressed market? Western Pennsylvania home prices have been well below the national median for a long time. Currently prices here aren't falling at the same rate as they are in the rest of the world, but really, if they were any lower you could put them on your credit card.

Of course, if you are coming in from outside of the region, Pittsburgh is a property buyer's wet dream. But the low purchase prices are still out of reach for a lot of the residents. The region is also below the national and state average median income. The following figures are from 2005. What's really scary is the 23% living below the poverty level.
Estimated median household income in 2005: $30,278 (it was $28,588 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $30,278
Pennsylvania: $44,537

Estimated median house/condo value in 2005: $74,000 (it was $59,700 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $74,000
Pennsylvania: $131,900

Median gross rent in 2005: $648.
Percentage of residents living in poverty in 2005: 23.2%
(16.3% for White Non-Hispanic residents, 38.6% for Black residents)

Ah, that explains so much. Purchasing art is something that you do when you have a generous amount of disposable income. In this region, the collectors suffer right alongside the artists.

*Attributed to Bill Clinton

11 comments:

John Morris said...

please watch this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n3g5lUgkWk

Anonymous said...

“[The socialists declare] that the state owes subsistence, well-being, and education to all its citizens; that it should be generous, charitable, involved in everything, devoted to everybody; …that it should intervene directly to relieve all suffering, satisfy and anticipate all wants, furnish capital to all enterprises, enlightenment to all minds, balm for all wounds, asylums for all the unfortunate, and even aid to the point of shedding French blood, for all oppressed people on the face of the earth.

Who would not like to see all these benefits flow forth upon the world from the law, as from an inexhaustible source? …But is it possible? …Whence does [the state] draw those resources that it is urged to dispense by way of benefits to individuals? Is it not from the individuals themselves? How, then, can these resources be increased by passing through the hands of a parasitic and voracious intermediary?

…Finally…we shall see the entire people transformed into petitioners. Landed property, agriculture, industry, commerce, shipping, industrial companies, all will bestir themselves to claim favors from the state. The public treasury will be literally pillaged. Everyone will have good reasons to prove that legal fraternity should be interpreted in this sense: “Let me have the benefits, and let others pay the costs.” Everyone’s effort will be directed toward snatching a scrap of fraternal privilege from the legislature. The suffering classes, although having the greatest claim, will not always have the greatest success.” — from Journal des Economistes

Frederic Bastiat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric_Bastiat

Susan Constanse said...

John,
That is a very interesting video. Did you notice that it was uploaded almost exactly one year ago? I have been hearing rumblings about the decline of the dollar for several months now and I don't tend to follow business issues. Thanks for pointing it out.

Susan Constanse said...

Anonymous,
I am unsure about why you posted about socialism. While I am not a proponent of socialism, I do think that workers' rights is a very important issue. I don't think that socialism is necessarily related to workers' rights.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson on the ethics of government debt. Does anyone remember the group lead or leave? Well, nobody lead and nobody left. Everyone, just put the bills on their kids credit card-- $53 trillion in bills. Does anyone think foreign investors are too stupid to add this up and that they could be fooled by the accounting fraud conducted by the U.S. government?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBo2xQIWHiM

"Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence." -

-Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393

Susan Constanse said...

As you can see, this blog is set for comment moderation. I was over-ruled when the comment left by Anonymous@10:59 was approved.

You, Anon@10:59 are a troll. Why don't you come out from behind your overblown and antiquated quotes, drop your mask, and use your own words to express your opinion? Or at least post something that is salient to the topic.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I can only assume you never bothered to think about this much and that you never bothered to click the link to watch the video.

The video describes the staggering national debt load of hidden liabilities the Federal government has loaded the economy with. Sooner or later, the cosequences of this debt will come due-- and it's happening now.

John's video about the falling dollar is right on target. The dollar's situation reflects the global flow of money into and out of our currency. We are running out of suckers.

Jefferson's quote is about the dire situation the country will be in if living generations decide to spend more they are producing and load their kids up with debt and debt they were never given the right to vote for or against.

You did title your post "It's the Economy Stupid" right

john morris said...

I'm not sure if I agree totally with Susan's spin on why so lttle art is bought in the Pittsburgh region.

The overall level of wealth has to be a factor and perhaps the main factor, but one sees clear evidence in the overall area of some pretty rich folks with high disposable income-- big cars, Hummers, McMansions in places like Cranbery and the North Hills (some of which might disapear)

I think what you see is a very uneven, balkanised distribution of wealth with most folks in the city ranging from very poor to perhaps upper middle class. What this means in practice is a lack of "cosmopolitan culture". Wealthy people don't mix regularly in the city and aren't exposed to it's growing art scene. They drive in and out.

I also want to say, that to my knowledge art is hard to sell everywhere.

Anonymous said...

By the way, there's a lot of talk about the bankruptcy of the city Pittsburgh again after a small city called Vallejo was allowed to do it in California.

http://nullspace2.blogspot.com/2008/09/wow-vallejo-bankrupt.html

The city of Pittsburgh from what I have heard in most circles is in much worse shape finacially than Vallejo and has been for years in a rolling structural funk of government debt. Just like the U.S government, most of the people who incurred the debts and obligations have now left, died or are retired leaving the remaining folks with the bills and some temple to remember them by-- like the sports stadiums.

No doubt a game of chicken will be played, in the hopes that the state will have to step in-- and so the game goes.

Rick Byerly said...

on the carnegie / 3 raf developments they've announced 2 people from the warhol will head up 3 raf- more info here http://pittsburghgalleries.blogspot.com/2008/09/carnegie-museums-takes-over-three.html

as far as la vie goes- sad to see them go but my understanding is that they have other priorities they want to pursue

rick byerly

Rick Byerly said...

also the 3raf review puts flux on hold as well...