Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Wednesday Word of the Week: ‘shovel-ready’

Bit different from other words I’ve looked at, this one, but I can’t resist. The debate about Obama’s financial stimulus – which includes $50M extra for the National Endowment for the Arts – has brought me a new word – ‘shovel-ready’. It means something – usually a capital or construction project – which is ready to start, and therefore (in this context) provide immediate activity, expenditure and general stimulus to the economy. (See this definition on the entertaining Word Spy site.) I shall be making every effort to use it as I go about my business. ‘Do we have any shovel-ready projects?’ ‘Is this work really shovel-ready?’ ‘I’ve got something shovel-ready for you.’ I apologise to everyone in the office in advance!

An article in Atlantic Monthly suggest the arts, especially public art, are a worthy part of a stimulus package because the arts are shovel-ready. It has a slightly naïve view of how artists work, and in particular how large public art projects work – in my experience they are rarely shovel-ready until relatively late in the day. And major arts capital projects including public art rarely run to the originally discussed timetable – even before they get on site. That said, it’s basically right: the arts can be both an immediate stimulus, and help improve both the physical and ‘mood’ environment, in a way that’s definitely worth 1/600th of the package.

There’s clearly an interesting debate going on the States about this. I picked up on it through Artful Manager. It’s an argument we’ve made – and often won – many times before, since the 80s. Given pressures on Regional Development Agencies, and public spending generally, we will need to revisit and sharpen our arguments once more.

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