Artists are finally getting their due. The Ford Foundation recently announced a $100 million commitment to arts organizations in recognition of how the arts and artists are often economic drivers in the communities where they reside. (“Grants Nurture Arts Space and Housing“, New York Times, 04/04/10)

We all know the familiar story: artists and the institutions they serve move into a community bringing excitement and activity. With more people comes more commerce, including restaurants and retail. The cycle of activity often has the unintended affect of displacing the artists who started the effort. To counteract this trend, some of the Ford monies will be dedicated to creating affordable housing for artists. Ford recently granted Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects $1 million for an East Harlem-based project.

The story of many successful commercial districts often starts with artists who take the bones of struggling urban neighborhood, take advantage of affordable studio spaces and housing, and create a community. It’s good to see an organization like Ford making sure that the artists themselves benefit from the economic activity they create.