In defence of creativity

As you know, I have some concerns with Richard Florida’s conclusions and the fact that many policy makers have leaped to the conclusio that investing in arts and culture will lead to an economic boom. I think that is false (in isolation of other efforts) and could actually divert resources from activities that are much more highly correlated with sucessful economic development.

But broader policies designed to encourage creativity and innovative thinking are welcome.

6 thoughts on “In defence of creativity

  1. Your own emphasis on animation proves you wrong. Isn’t animation ‘cultural’? Isn’t it an art? Let’s combine our two examples, the animation studio in Miramichi and provincial investment in a television station. Well, actually, forget all that, the above is proved wrong with one word-Hollywood. From here in Ontario perhaps you’ve heard of the Stratford Festival, practically building a one industry town. Numerous other town have also copied them, there’s now a Shaw Festival and a couple others. What those investments do is make people want to live there or visit there. It’s understandable that you don’t trust tourism as an industry but you can’t deny that its worked well for Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

    In fact, I think you actually posted the job growth figures awhile back for the province and among the largest growth was cultural industries, and as readers here well know, NB is NOT a province known for investing in culture.

    The difference is in the details. How can a province use funds to best create cultural industries. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, it certainly wasn’t the provincial government that started the Northrop Frye festival in Moncton, sometimes all a government has to do is as NBT says-stay out of the way. In other cases the problem is legislation-it is actually ILLEGAL for Rogers Television to broadcast anything other that ‘special interest’ local programming. They aren’t allowed to fund or purchase comedy or drama. The only special case was given for ‘Acadieman’.

    That legislation COULD be changed, but I think that’s federal. But there’s no doubt that TVO has been an economic boon for ontario. It could be better with more funding, but at least its something.

  2. As economies prosper, people spend more on arts and culture resulting in a vibrant arts culture. As you suggest, it is quite a leap of faith to turn this around and suggest inducing a vibrant arts and culture environment will result in a prosperous economy. I suppose you never know until you try but if I have choice to vote for a government intending to invest $80M in an art gallery or one intending to invest $80M in a Toyota plant, even with the state of the automotive industry, my vote would go for the Toyota plant. I recognize the art gallery would generate lots of minimum wage tourism jobs but I tend to think the art gallery could be more viable once there are 800 people in my community making $80K per year and dozens of businesses supplying the factory.

  3. Art galleries are not ‘culture’, how that came to be the most cited is a mystery. So here’s another investment example-the government had $30 million three years ago, should it follow my example and invest in a television station that would see advertising in each NB market, as well as create a fund for the first couple of years to help produce comedies, dramas, and especially animation.

    Or should it take that money and invest it in a pulp mill. Of course we know what happened with the pulp mill, we don’t know what MIGHT happen with investments in arts and culture (except for the abovementioned job increases in cultural industries). A job is a job is a job, whether its for Fatkat or Toyota, the difference is, most people I know at Toyota are happy with the job security, while the people at FatKat are happy with, and love their actual jobs. Why FatKat is not considered ‘cultural’ is a mystery, you guys have to get your heads out of the idea that culture means ‘gallery’. Here in Waterloo the region spent a fortune on a ‘clay and glass gallery’ that almost nobody goes into, and certainly nobody considers indicative of local ‘culture’ (which is probably closer aligned to the world famous Oktoberfest).

    I’ve never read Florida’s book, so don’t know whether HE just means building an art gallery means tons of people will flock to a city, I highly doubt it since that seems absurd on the very face of it. However, again, the central point of this post should be that cultural jobs are the fastest growing private sector jobs in the province even though that industry is extremely poorly served by government. Meaning that just a little investment can go a long way.

  4. The original post was motivated by a conversation I had where someone suggested that I didn’t believe there was a correlation between creativity (broadly defined) and economic development. I do see a correlation – in the knowledge economy particularly creativity and innovation are fundamental. What I have long worried about was cause and effect. Some economic developers have suggested diverting significant public funding into arts and cultural activity believing that this will lead directly to significant economic development. I don’t believe this is the case.

  5. “…perhaps you’ve heard of the Stratford Festival, practically building a one industry town. Numerous other town have also copied them,…”

    These festivals are successful because they draw from the booming populations of the GTA, i.e. they are successful because of the growth of other economic sectors in ON. Seems to me that is not consistent with Florida’s point.

    Its true that PEI and NS have done a much better job of defining themselves as tourist destinations than NB. But has that resulted in significantly more creation of high-paying jobs?

    David, I fear that you are correct that ED bureaucrats will swallow Florida’s line and that funds will be diverted. This will please Freddy Beach’s chattering class no end, but won’t do much for creation of high-paying jobs in NB. Need I point out that Florida is now located at a business school? When are people going to wake up an close down these useless and unproductive institutions?

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