Title page for ETD etd-04132012-140503

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Tate, Anthony Scott
Author's Email Address atate1@vt.edu
URN etd-04132012-140503
Title Civic Tinkering in a Small City: Imaginaries and Intersections of Art, Place and Marginality
Degree PhD
Department Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stephenson, Max O. Jr. Committee Chair
Fine, Elizabeth C. Committee Member
Leonard, Robert G. Committee Member
Provo, John Committee Member
  • cultural development
  • marginality
  • arts and culture
  • place identity
  • imaginaries
  • urban change
Date of Defense 2012-03-30
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this ethnographic case study was to explore the construction and alteration of Roanoke Virginia’s cultural imaginary, as well as the engagement of marginal groups and their concerns in those processes. This research examined these issues through the experiences of key actors involved with the creation of Roanoke’s first city-wide arts and cultural plan and the creation and growth of the Roanoke-based Marginal Arts Festival (MAF).

Cities around the globe are increasingly engaged in transnational projects of place identification, reconfiguration, and attraction: attracting capital, residents, workers, tourists and attention (Cronin & Hetherington, 2008; Hague, 2005; Jensen, 2005, 2007; Pine & Gilmore, 1999; Zukin 1995). Moreover, cities undertake various kinds of identity projects: on-going, dynamic processes through which spaces are produced and reproduced by conscious strategies of place making and identity building (Nyseth & Viken, 2009). Such initiatives are concerted efforts to establish or extend a particular idea, or imaginary, of a city. This study focused on one kind of urban identity endeavor that has become widespread during the past two decades: the effort to shape and market a creative, culture-rich place, to project a specific urban cultural imaginary.

This analysis also responded to a straightforward problem, that of the manner through which people, in places pursuing arts and culture as a primary focus for development, come to terms with differing understandings of art and its role in development. This study identified four principal future paths for the analysis of cultural imaginaries and the practice of cultural development: studying and supporting civic tinkering activities, recognizing the relevance of localized imaginaries and urban identity projects, valuing full participation in the project of the city, and conducting place-specific and critical analyses.

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