Back in olden times, Richmond's downtown Broad Street was bustling with cars, trolleys, and folks who wore hats and nice wool suits all day (even though it was hot as hell out and air conditioning didn't even exist yet!). Then, in a trend that swept across America, downtown went to shit after everyone fled to live in the suburbs and shop in the malls.
After many years of failed government-led downtown revitalization efforts, this area of Broad Street was blessed with a highly successful, grassroots movement that turned cheap unused storefronts into small art galleries. The success of Richmond's First Fridays art walk led to the opening of many neat local restaurants and stores. Once again, art and culture proved to be the simple, low cost way for a city to revitalize its downtown.
The Richmond city government has taken a lot of criticism for their lack of support, and for wasting gobs of money on a few big stupid revitalization projects that have amounted to jack shit. Well I happen to think that the city was wise in withholding their monetary support! You might even say that the Richmond city government deserves most of the credit for this downtown renaissance!
The fact is, artists and creative types do their best work when they're broke! The days of benefactors and life-like stone sculptures are over! Today's art is a crude, outsider affair, curated by desperate, hungry galleries.
By withholding support from the art movement in downtown Richmond, our government has helped create a culture of bored and mostly sober creative young people who have nothing better to do with their energy and idealism than work tirelessly and selflessly to restore our downtown for us! Believe me, as soon as you give these artsy non-profits a little walking around money it's "Goodbye, revitalization." and "Hello, heroin addiction!".
Keeping these art galleries and their related organizations perpetually on the brink also helps prepare for the next stage of revitalization, when all the poor art galleries will get priced out by condos and chain restaurants. Where art galleries and new local restaurants now stand, filling the streets with art walkers and foodies, we will soon see high-end strip clubs, tourist T-shirt shops, and other fun destinations!
So it's really no wonder why the city isn't rushing to give this area the special "art district" zoning that they desire. This period of local art culture is merely the pupa stage of the true revitalization. The eventual future of downtown Broad Street is so bright with 2-story Burger Kings and Books-A-Million Megastores that your average hipster artists will need a darker pair of sunglasses to wear at night!
So what becomes of them? Why they'll simply go elsewhere, hopefully to move in and revitalize another horrible area, such as Manchester, or the insufferable East End. And when they're done getting things moving there they can be replaced, once again, by warehouse condos and urban malls, filled with well paid young professionals, who'll continue to move here in droves to live in a city with a thriving arts community!