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An arts district is a demarcated urban area, usually on the periphery of a city centre, intended to create a 'critical mass' of places of cultural consumption - such as art galleries, dance clubs, theatres, art cinemas, music venues, and public squares for performances. Such an area is usually encouraged by public policy-making and planning, but sometimes occurs spontaneously. It is associated with allied service-industry jobs like cafes, printers, fashion outlets, restaurants, and a variety of 'discreet services' (see the back-page small-ads of almost any cultural events-listings magazine).
There may also be some artists' studios located in nearby back-streets. But, as Richard Florida has found from his research, cultural production facilities are often better sited some miles away from cultural consumption facilities - except in some very tolerant cities and in countries where a boisterous alcohol-based nightlife scene does not lead to aggressive and anti-social behaviour.
In the UK the term sometimes used is "Cultural quarter" or "Arts quarter".
Types of Arts Districts
Steiner and Butler outline five types of arts districts commonly found in the United States.
- Cultural compounds - tend to be the oldest art districts often established in cities before the 1930s. These tend to be well-known art districts engrained into the mentality and culture of a community or nation.
- Major Cultural Institutions - large institutions that serve as anchors for an arts district such as large concert halls, playhouses, libraries, or museums.
- Arts and entertainment centers - focus primarily on smaller, popular attractions such as small theaters, private galleries, restaurants, and other entertainment that often has a more bohemian feel than larger more established districts.
- Downtown Arts Districts - occasionally art districts encompass an entire downtown and especially when tourism and walk-ability is the focus of downtown.
- Cultural Production Districts - cultural production districts are characterized by production spaces such as specialized studios, arts centers, and media facilities. These areas are often tied to affordable studio housing for artists and prioritize the cultural life of the neighborhood.
Notable arts districts in the United States include:
- Paseo Arts District, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Arts District, Dallas, Texas
- Arts District, Portland, Maine
- Arts District, Richmond, Virginia
- Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri
- Cultural Center Historic District, Detroit, Michigan
- North East Art District, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Downtown Arts District, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Gateway Arts District, Hyattsville/Mount Rainier/Brentwood/North Brentwood, Maryland
- Gordon Square Arts District, Cleveland, Ohio
- Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia
- Miller Beach Arts and Creative District, Gary, Indiana
- NoBo Art District, Boulder, Colorado
- Noho Arts District, Los Angeles, California
- Pearl District, Portland, Oregon
- Ray Street Arts District in North Park, San Diego, California
- Short North, Columbus, Ohio
- Uptown, Oakland, California
- Village of the Arts, Bradenton/Sarasota, Florida
- Wynwood Art District, Miami, Florida
Art districts in London include: