A museum creates a force field

A museum creates a force field around it. Any institution does this. Even when there’s not an active show, and even if you’re not one of the people who goes there. I saw this around MoMa PS1: someone made art out of what looked like milk containers cut to flat pieces. These were probably in a pile behind this fence before, but are now a cool thing.

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MoMa PS1 has an obvious economic impact. The area is cooler by the year, with apartments getting built, and increasingly conceptual coffee shops and restaurants to feed yuppies like me. There’s also still at least one restaurant within walking distance that feels a bit scruffy and “authentic,” where we ate delicious roast chicken with a sauce I never tried before. I’m sure they get lots of business when the museum holds their popular summer warm-up events, or when a new show is on view. (We managed to visit when almost nothing was on display, and still had fun learning about the building itself.)

I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the things that the presence of a museum in the area (or you in a museum) makes you do differently. Look at this, even the friggin bathroom graffiti is subtle and minimal.

Art institutions also make people do cool things that are not necessarily art. To look at things more carefully, maybe be nicer to each other. To see a different way out of a problem.

And for several blocks around PS1, if you’re looking, you’ll find art things, some more challenging than others.

This force field that I feel around art places, it changes things. And it’s exactly why I’m angry about even the possibility that the NEA might not have a budget allocated to it in 2018. They must be getting so many questions about it that they put a modal over the top of the homepage saying, here’s some answers to your FAQs.

Maybe my job now is to help tell the story of how the National endowment for the Arts is an obviously good investment. (Thank you for listening!)

Maria Matveeva