The Mercurial's Amanda Bloom hit the nail on the head in her write-up regarding the laughable claim from the honest one that Danbury is the "6th best city in the United States for the Arts"
ON NOVEMBER 30, The Atlantic Cities published "The Most Artistic Cities in America", in which Danbury was listed as the number six most artistic city. The title of this article is somewhat misleading; essentially, reporter Richard Florida came to his conclusions by comparing the concentration of artists in each city compared to the national average of artists living in the United States.
"We use a measure called a 'location quotient,' or LQ, which is basically a ratio that compares a region's share of artists to the national share of artists," writes Florida. "An LQ of one implies that its regional share equals the national average; less than one is less than the national average and greater than one is more than the national average. An LQ of two, for example, means a region has twice the national average of artists."
With the aid of Florida's colleague, Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute, Florida pulled data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey to find how many "artist and related workers" were counted in each city. The end result lists Danbury at an impressive number six with an LQ of 2.460, in between Santa Fe, New Mexico at number one with an LQ of 7.587 and Jersey City at number 10 with an LQ of 2.256. Danbury isn't too far behind New York City, listed at number 3 with an LQ of 2.573 and number 4, Los Angeles, with an LQ of 2.513.
This is valuable and exciting information. Danbury is brimming with artists, which is old news to many who live here. However, the assertion that Danbury is one of the top 10 artistic cities in America is so false it smarts. (The Hat City Blogger chided Mayor Mark Boughton for citing Florida's article in the Mayor's spuriously titled blog post "Danbury Named 6th Best City in America for the Arts".) For many years now, the art scene has been clinging to the edges of the city, holding on for dear life. Those who lived in the area 10 and 20 years ago will remember a powerful art scene, a hopping downtown, a booming city. But that is no longer the case.
Downtown is semiconscious, with a couple music venues here, a few galleries over there, and far too many empty storefronts. Danbury artists travel to other parts of the state to show their work, to move their careers forward, to network, to experience art and to purchase art. There are too few spaces in which Danbury can celebrate its artists, too few venues to hear its outstanding musicians. But that's not to say an "Artistic City" can't grow from our LQ 2.460 artist population.
A shift must take place in order for the arts to take a lasting hold downtown. Artists, galleries, music venues and shops need the utmost support of the City. Eliminate restrictions for these places of business. Prioritize permits for these places of business. Abolish the nine-year-old moratorium on new liquor licenses in the CityCenter district, which coincidentally parallels the cultural fallout of downtown Danbury, the slow fade of the downtown gallery, music hall, boutique and artisan shop. If the City does what it can to make the arts truly viable, our LQ 2.460 community will take care of the rest.
To the Danbury Main Street Partnership, Mayor Mark Boughton and new economic development director Bruce R. Tuomala: Prepare the soil, and our artists will make a magnificent garden.
I can still remember the days of when listening to acts such as Monsterland, China Pig, Gnu Fuz, Onion, Sans Cherub at multiple venues downtown was common place (remember Seattle Espresso, The Blue Moon Book Store, Gallery 13, Chameleon, The Chicken Coop, Hat City Ale House on Wednesday nights?) Cover bands such as The Zoo and The Nerds would make it a point to play in Danbury where they were usually welcomed with close to sold out attendance.
...and don't get me started with the popularity of the GasBall festival at the Green!
While the talent of today's art community isn't on par with the scene in the 90s, it's still quite good...unfortunately the support for the arts by city leaders has all but disappeared (for example, give Tom Carruthers a call).
It's one thing to brag about Danbury being listed in some silly article which uses a formula that's laughable at first glace. What Danbury needs is REAL support for the arts, which includes a REAL re-commitment to the CT Film Festival, recognition of local alternative talents, and s REAL commitment to artists and photographers whose works go seldom noticed downtown or mentioned in the media (unless it's some display on the third floor at City Hall).
Back in the late 80s-90s, because of the popularity of the local indpendent music scene, a famous musician named Danbury as the Seattle of the East Coast...and for good reason. There is a groundswell of talented people in the city that could do wonders for the revitalization of downtown. What's needed is the type of leadership that recognizes the benefit of the arts and provide that section of the community an input in revamping Main Street.