The artists in the Massachusetts town of Pittsfield think so.
Pittsfield lost 13,000 jobs when GE left 15 years ago, which is staggering since it had a population of 60,000 at the time (50,000 today). That and a new shopping mall all but killed the downtown.
Fast forward to 2002, when an artist, Maggie Mailer realized that even if all the downtown businesses were gone, the downtown vitality didn’t have to be, nor should it. As the story goes, Mailer founded the Storefront Artist Project and convinced vacant building owners to provide temporary free storefront studio for 30 artists. The genuine streetlife helped attract restaurants and an employer.
You can watch a mini documentary here.