The role of the arts in the redevelopment of Smithfield

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A report published this week by Kerry Guinan assesses the role of the arts in urban planning, providing evidence about the redevelopment of Smithfield and its use of art for economic gain, writes Jack Popeley.

Entitled ‘The Impact and Instrumentalisation of Art in the Dublin Property Market’ the report uses historical evidence from Smithfield during the period 1996-2016. The report aimed to assess an apparent “newfound state [of] appreciation of the arts in the Irish urban environment,” and analysed “the substance of this appreciation, asking whether it represents support for art in its own right or the instrumentalisation of art for economic purposes”.

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Kerry Guinan explained: “Over the past 20, almost 30 years now there’s been a big push for this thing called cultural-led development, which is when local planning decides to make creative quarters or to use art as a key point for a regeneration project.”

Her report reveals that the project of this nature undertaken in Smithfield did very little culturally, or for the community in the area. Furthermore, these regeneration projects are becoming more and more reliant on private developers to get off their feet, which in turn have no public obligation to go through with the planned (less profitable) plans.

“There is stuff in [the] Dublin City Arts Office which supports the role of art in itself and the role of the artist, but it’s always grounded in regeneration projects and urban planning schemes, which have this [economic] incentive in mind,” she said.

Use of art as a means to an economic end is not something that is new to Dublin according to Kerry Guinan. “The first big project which this kind of ethos was temple Bar, it actually was one of the first cultural led purpose built quarters in the entire world. So Dublin was kind of ahead of the game in terms of developing this kind of planning system. But then as neo-liberalism deepened it became more of a tool to compete internationally by creating a ‘city brand’.”

Her report concludes with the finding that the use of art and art infrastructure like BLOCK T on Smithfield square, “was not just for its own self but instead to provide some sort of mediating ground in between the old boom and bust and to help an area pick up foot fall and make it more glamourous again,” all of which raised rent prices and other economic interests in the area.

The full report ‘The Impact and Instrumentalisation of Art in Dublin Property Market’ will be published freely online at http://www.academia.edu after the launch on Thursday 15th December 2016. For more on Kerry Guinan, you can visit her website: http://www.kerryguinan.com

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