Discussions of art are often linked to cities such as New York, London, and Paris, though art is also negotiated within small markets. This paper investigates the ways in which gallery owners and artists in a small art market think about the role of art in urban sustainability and social engagement. Through semi-structured interviews, we discovered that many individuals were finding it difficult to maintain an economically feasible business, while also saying that the community supported the arts at various levels. Much of the art that would be considered socially engaged consisted of political caricatures, and typically did not sell very well. We also found that the market functioned as a zero sum game for many of the actors, though there was little evidence that this needed to be the case. Finally, surveys results from two socially engaged art shows are provided to show how patrons for the arts think about the economic importance of the arts at the local level.
Article originally published in “The Open Sociology Journal” V.3 (2010), pp. 1-8, as open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Reprinted with permission.