March 30th, 2012

Written by Oakley Allred, Fine Art Consultant

I recently read a couple of articles pertaining to London’s cultural scene and the upcoming Summer Olympics, which raises the question in the UK’s capitol city, “Will the arts lose out?” While London expects to host approximately six million sports enthusiasts during the Summer Games, the city’s cultural institutions are forecasting conservative attendance numbers for the months surrounding the XXX Olympiad, which will occur during Europe’s busiest tourist season. However, some trend forecasters optimistically anticipate that an Olympic “afterglow” will benefit arts organizations in the UK.

I lived in Chicago during the height of its Olympic bid for the 2016 summer games, which were ultimately awarded to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Though I was only a casual observer of the bid, its supporters optimistically touted the benefits of bringing the Games to Chicago such as: infrastructural improvements, property development, increased tax revenue and greater overall exposure of the Second City.

Interestingly, many of the city’s arts and cultural organizations opposed the bid. Primarily, they feared the diversion of public funding dollars, disruptive construction and anticipated gridlock leading up to and during the event.

However, I always wondered why Chicago’s cultural institutions did not see an Olympic “silver lining” in the form of new viewers and audience members. Though not all six million Olympic tourists will visit London’s Royal Opera House, British Museum or Whitechapel Gallery this summer, I guarantee some will – and many for the first time. And isn’t it true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression?

It can be argued that Park City’s recent renaissance is at least partially due to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. In the early 2000s, Park City’s natural environment was used (though some would say exploited) to host a sporting event of global proportions.

In its aftermath, a greater economic momentum developed, bringing with it more exposure, visitors and ultimately money to what was not so long ago a small mining town.

With the Kimball Art Center poised to soon undergo a major expansion, and the number of art-related businesses and cultural offerings available in Park City at an all-time high, the link between sport and art is apparently “we the people,” arriving en masse and over time to recreate, consume and influence our surroundings.