June 13, 2003


The whole Creative Class schtick has been circulating the net for some time now, sourced from Richard Florida's book. Florida makes the argument that the industrial age is being replaced by the creative age, in which artists rule the economic ladder.

Florida seems to confuse "creative" with "information". In a way I can't blame him for trying to hitch the art wagon to the Information Revolution. Actually I think that is a good move. But the principles outlined seem a tad... Utopian.

Anyway, now Willamette Week has an article on how Florida's book is being used as a twisted form of economic development:

For many Portland arts leaders, this book is more than a bible -- it's a call to arms. For cash-starved arts organizations, it offers the hope of salvation in the form of government advocacy and funding. On the speaking circuit, Florida has become a star attraction. On the Friday before he spoke in Portland, he regaled a group of jaded newspaper editors at an alt-weekly convention in Pittsburgh wearing flip-flops and jeans. By Sunday he was here in a sharp suit.


In fact, Mayor Vera Katz established a Cultural Economy Initiative a year ago as a means to take up Florida's challenge and hired economic development specialist Rosie Williams to lead the charge. "We're asking artists what brings them here," says Williams. "And, more importantly, how can we keep them here."
Ummm... first, wouldn't artists have to, well, make money? I mean, we've never been known for being wealthy. Picasso was an abberation, not the norm.
Using various statistical data and indices, Florida shows that many cities in America have become magnets for high-tech and new technologies because they offer a rich, urban lifestyle along with a commitment to diversity.
Could it be he has that order reversed?

Meawhile, other artists are not taking so quickly to Vera's new passion, either:

"I'd prefer the city adopts tendencies rather than policies," says [executive co-director of 2 Gyrlz Performative Arts Llewyn] Máire. "They should be supportive without being intrusive." As one of the artists that met with the city, Máire noted the apprehension among peers: "When we were asked what we wanted, [filmmaker] Matt McCormick said, 'Leave us alone.'" Williams has sympathy for such criticisms: "We should really be in a backseat position."
Then came the killer paragraph:
But is taking any position necessary? Portland seems to be attracting creative people without municipal efforts, luring even a top-tier film director like Todd Haynes, who will tell anyone who asks that Portland's arts scene is one of its best selling points.
Slap me. I think I am hallucinating. Did WW just advocate market economics?

Interesting stuff, worth a full read through.