Cultural Engineering Group

Services & Ressources en ingénierie culturelle

Capital of Culture : What is the impact of arts and cultural clustering on local productivity ?


This is the summary of a paper that was included in a National Endowment for the Arts/Brookings Institution volume published last year. We just uplodaded it to the Nesta working paper series – you can download the paper here.

In recent years, academics and consultants have argued that the arts and cultural sector can boost productivity in other sectors of the local economy, through two main mechanisms.

  • By creating urban environments that attract professionals with high levels of human capital and their innovative, high-growth employers.
  • By supplying other parts of the local economy – in particular, commercial creative firms – with new ideas and skills that enhance innovation.

Although these arguments have justified policies for creative place making, urban branding, and public investments in signature buildings and dedicated cultural districts, the evidence base underpinning them is still sparse, and mostly confined to the US. Additionally, little is known about the relative importance of different mechanisms and types of cultural clustering (occupational or industrial) in boosting local productivity.
In Capital of Culture, we seek to address these gaps in the literature by building an econometric model exploring the impact of cultural clusters on the productivity of English cities. In doing this, we draw on a well-established body of literature on urban wage premiums and human capital externalities.

Our model tests the impact of cultural agglomeration on worker wages (which act as a proxy for productivity) at the city level. We use three measures of cultural clustering (cultural sector employment, cultural occupations and cultural institutions), constructed from official labour force and business registry survey data, and a unique dataset of almost 5,000 UK cultural institutions from Culture 24. We control for important individual and city level characteristics.

What are our findings?

There is evidence that skilled workers sacrifice higher wages to locate in areas with strong cultural clustering

Our findings confirm that there is a positive relationship between cultural clustering and average wages in English cities: English cities in the 90th percentile of cultural employment clustering have average hourly wages of £12.48, £1.11 higher than the average wage for cities in the 10th percentile. However, once we control for individual characteristics (particularly skills as proxied by an individual’s qualifications), the coefficients for two out of our three measures of cultural clustering in our wage equations (cultural employment and institutions) become significantly negative, while the cultural occupations coefficient becomes insignificant.

This ‘negative cultural urban wage premium’ is consistent with there being a compensating differential. In other words, workers may, other things equal, be willing to take a wage cut to reside in cities with relatively more cultural amenities, as these contribute to its quality of life – its ‘livability’, and ‘lovability’.

Creative cities seem to be more productive

We also use our econometric model to examine the relationship between worker wages and measures of creative clustering (focusing on employment and occupations in commercial creative industries as compared to the arts and culture). In this case, we find evidence of a positive wage premium in ‘creative cities’ even after controlling for individual skills – this is particularly the case for cities with strong creative occupational clustering. Although caution is advised in the interpretation of this finding given the obvious potential for reverse causality (affluent cities attract creative industries), it lends support to those who advocate targeting occupations instead of industies to support urban development.

The is evidence of innovation spillovers from cultural clusters into the commercial creative economy

Finally, we test the impact of cultural clustering on the wages of workers in the local ‘commercial’ creative industries, bearing in mind the literature’s emphasis on knowledge spillovers across related – rather than distant – industrial domains. Here, we find some evidence that creative workers in cities with high levels of cultural clustering enjoy a wage premium, which suggests that not-for-profit arts and cultural sectors may generate knowledge spillovers for the commercial creative economy. Once again, these results should be seen as indicative at best, as the causality could work in the opposite direction (a vibrant arts and cultural scene may emerge in places with more productive creative clusters).

Our conclusions 

The preliminary conclusion from our analysis is that, although English data support the view that there is a relationship between cultural clustering and urban development, that relationship appears to be subtler than is generally acknowledged. In particular, the economic impact of public investments in urban arts and cultural infrastructure may be manifest in improvements in the productivity (and wages) of creative professionals, and may not be associated with higher wages in the wider economy if cultural activities serve as a compensating differential.

Image credit: Handover of the European Capital of Culture from Liverpool to Vilnius and Linz via Eric The Fish at Flickr.

Filed under: Analyses, Evénements, Expériences, Gouvernances, Politiques culturelles, Ressources, , , , ,

Barcelona Olympic facilities to host a 66.000 m2 sports theme park in 2015

Barcelona sports-1

In 2015, Barcelona Olympic Ring will become the home of Open Camp Sportainment, the first theme park in the world entirely dedicated to sports. According to Open Camp S.L., the company responsible for the project, the 66.000 m2 theme park will offer a « unique » show involving technology, family and sports. The new attraction will occupy the current Olympic Stadium, the Palau Sant Jordi sports hall, the Olympic and Sports Museum Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Bernat Picornell swimming pool, the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava and the INEFC sports faculty, which will only be accessed during the summer break when there are no classes. All these facilities will combine their regular activities with those of the theme park, which will be open from April to October, some 250 days per year. The regular entry will cost €28; one of the « cheapest » prices for a theme park in Europe said Barcelona Deputy Mayor for Economy, Enterprise and Employment, Sònia Recasens. The project expects 7,000 visitors per day and an annual economic impact for Barcelona of 52.8 million euros. It will also generate approximately 240 jobs, contributing for the local employment rates.

In 2012, Open Camp S.L. started promoting the Open Camp Sportainment; a business, scientific and technological initiative aimed to offer to millions of fans worldwide entertainment experiences related to sports, localized in specialized settings such as parks, stadiums, hotels and restaurants.

After analyzing different alternatives across Europe, Open Camp S.L. considered Barcelona to be one of the « best » destinations to base the first theme park in the world exclusively dedicated to sports. According to the project’s General Director, Francesc Medina, the infrastructure of the Barcelona Olympic Ring is « perfectly preserved » comparing to other Olympic infrastructures around the world. Yet, an investment of over 20 million euros will be made in order to rehabilitate and modernize the Ring for the future usage.

Open Camp Sportainment is expected to open in 2015 in the Olympic Ring, on top of Montjuïc hill. The public will be able to visit the Olympic Stadium, the Palau Sant Jordi sports hall, the Communications Tower designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Bernal Picornell swimming pool and the area surrounding all these facilities. The park will be opened from April to October and, during summer time, visitors will also be also to access the installations of the National Institute of Physical Education (INEFC).

According to Francesc Medina, « the main approach is to create a new category from sports tourism and entertainment and from trends that underlie the project, such as the viewer being the only protagonist. » Open Camp Sportainment aims to become a benchmark for innovation related to sport, allying it with technology. An example is the exclusive mobile application that will guide the visitor throughout the entire visit.

The park will include different areas such as, the Open Museum which will offer interactive sporting experiences and, the Open Play, where visitors will be able to experience the collective side of sports and the media coverage of many different sporting events. Francesc Medina emphasized that these areas « comprise » a proposal of « sports culture » with activities and attractions associated with elements such as the system of media coverage.

The project expects 7,000 visitors per day and an economic impact for the city of 52.8 million euros per year. It will create approximately 240 jobs, contributing for the local employment rates. The regular ticket will cost 28 euros; one of the cheapest prices in Europe for theme parks, said Barcelona Deputy Mayor for Economy, Enterprise and Employment of the City Council, Sònia Recasens. However, a range of different tickets will be available.

Source : VilaWeb / News from Catalonia.

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Nantes digital week

Nantes digital week

Du 12 au 21 septembre 2014, Nantes Métropole lance sa première Digital Week.

Les rendez-vous aux typologies contrastées qu’elle propose (conférences, expo, festival, démos, workshop) et le public éclectique qu’elle va rassembler : chercheurs, amateurs d’arts numériques, start-upers, entrepreneurs, curieux, spécialistes…

La Nantes Digital Week, c’est l’expression du bouillonnement numérique nantais et de son goût pour l’hybridation, les croisements inattendus entre la recherche, l’art, les start-up et l’industrie.

Plus d’information ici.

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Premier bilan et projets d’avenir pour Marseille Provence 2013

Même si la manifestation ne s’achèvera que le 31 décembre par un grand feu d’artifice – comme elle avait débuté – le bilan de Marseille Provence 2013 capitale européenne de la culture commence à se dessiner alors que se terminent plusieurs événements.

7,35 millions de visiteurs et le Mucem en vedette

Du côté de la fréquentation, les chiffres apparaissent plutôt à la hauteur des attentes, avec 7,35 millions de visiteurs enregistrés à la mi-octobre. La vedette incontestée est, bien sûr, le Mucem (Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) qui, avec 1,25 million de visiteurs depuis son ouverture au mois de juin seulement, bat tous les records en la matière (voir notre article ci-contre du 17 septembre 2013). Il reste qu’il est difficile de faire la part, dans ce démarrage foudroyant, entre l’attrait du bâtiment et de sa situation exceptionnelle au cœur de la ville (contrairement à Pompidou-Metz et au Louvre-Lens) et l’intérêt pour les contenus et les expositions.
Le second événement en termes de fréquentation est l’exposition « Le grand atelier du Midi », une exposition à cheval sur Aix et Marseille qui vient de clore ses portes le 13 octobre. Si le succès est réel avec 462.000 visiteurs, il se situe néanmoins en deçà des 600.000 entrées attendues, ce qui devrait se traduire par un déficit d’exploitation. Viennent ensuite 400.000 personnes pour l’opération « Entre flammes et flots » (avec un éclairage du Vieux Port à la bougie) durant un week-end en mai, 300.000 pour « Transhumance » (des centaines de moutons, vaches et chevaux traversant Marseille en juin) et 200.000 personnes pour une association insolite entre la Patrouille de France, des voltigeurs de l’armée de l’air et la chorégraphe Kitsou Dubois.
En dépit de cette légère déception sur « Le grand atelier du Midi », la dizaine de musées marseillais – dont celui des Beaux-Arts, le musée Cantini, le musée d’Histoire de Marseille et le musée des Arts décoratifs et de la Mode de Borely qui ont rouvert pour l’occasion – ont bénéficié à plein de cette affluence. Le nombre de leurs visiteurs atteignait en effet 530.000 à la mi-octobre, contre 220.000 pour toute l’année 2012. Si environ un tiers des visiteurs venaient de Marseille et des Bouches-du-Rhône, plus de 50% étaient originaires du reste de la France et 15% de l’étranger.

Vers une « mini capitale culturelle » en 2015 ?

Même sur le plan financier, le budget initial semble avoir été à peu près respecté. A ce jour, la manifestation affiche un déficit prévisionnel de 2,9 millions d’euros pour un budget de 91 millions, mais, selon les organisateurs, « la situation est en cours de règlement » grâce à diverses économies. 
Sur le moyen terme, il est encore trop tôt pour mesurer l’impact économique de Marseille Provence 2013 (voir notre article ci-contre du 9 janvier 2013) et, plus encore, son impact sur l’image de la cité phocéenne, même si de nombreux Marseillais se réjouissent de constater que les médias ont enfin parlé d’autre chose que des règlements de compte ou de la grève des éboueurs. Comme à Lille en 2004, il semble toutefois dès à présent que Marseille Provence 2013 devrait laisser des traces et instaurer une dynamique nouvelle. Sans attendre la réunion prévue ce mois-ci, sous la présidence du préfet des Bouches-du-Rhône, une note interne du président de l’association MP 2013, intitulée « Bâtir l’après 2013 ou comment amplifier le succès de l’année capitale » et révélée par le magazine Télérama, propose déjà des pistes.
Adressée aux services de l’Etat, aux collectivités territoriales et aux parties prenantes de l’opération, elle cherche à identifier les forces et les faiblesses de la manifestation. Côté positif : le « redressement d’image », la fréquentation, le succès populaire, la réappropriation de la ville par ses habitants… Côté négatif : les couacs dans la préparation de l’opération qui ont nui à la crédibilité du projet, un démarrage tardif dû en partie à une communication insuffisante et pas assez tournée vers l’international, des faiblesses dans la programmation… 
Pour l’avenir, la note envisage de donner une suite à la manifestation, sous la forme de l’organisation, en 2015, d’une mini capitale culturelle de quelques mois, précédée d’une grande manifestation populaire en 2014 pour maintenir l’intérêt. Une nouvelle structure, sous la forme d’un GIP, serait chargée de porter ce nouveau projet. Un projet qui s’inspire très fortement de l’exemple de Lille qui a réédité l’événement en 2006, 2009 et 2012, à travers le programme culturel « Lille 3000 ». Il est toutefois peu probable que des décisions soient prises avant les municipales de mars prochain.

Source : Jean-Noël Escudié, Localtis.

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , , , , ,

Arts hubs of the world unite

A forum launched in São Paulo will create a network of decision makers behind cities’ cultural development projects
Plans for the Dallas Arts District

Plans for the Dallas Arts District

The decision makers behind established and emerging arts hubs such as the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong and the Dallas Arts District will be united by a new forum announced today, 5 June, at the New Cities Summit in São Paulo.

The ambitious project, entitled the Global Cultural Districts Network, is a partnership between the summit organiser, the New Cities Foundation, the New York-based cultural consultancy firm AEA Consulting and representatives from the Dallas Arts District.

Maxwell Anderson, the director of the Dallas Museum of Art and the chairman of the Dallas Arts District, says: « We’re trying to be a sounding board for good ideas, we want to help tune the instrument by working collectively alongside city planners and governments. Our aim is to move the debate above the chatter in our own cities. »

Network members will share resources, discuss the impact of urban policies and economic developments on cultural centres, and assess trends in technology and the creative industries. But will the new body have any sway? « It provides a network for people responsible for conceiving and planning these projects to share both their challenges—‘what’s keeping them up at night’—and best practices—‘what’s allowing them to sleep’,” says Adrian Ellis, the director of AEA Consulting. « It can affect the climate of opinion in which projects are scoped, so that that those in the earliest stages strike out in the right direction. »

The newly launched organisation hopes to recruit members; its high-profile trustees, meanwhile, include Michael Lynch, the chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong; Carolien Gehrels, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor responsible for Economic Affairs, Art & Culture; and Michael Eissenhauer, the general director of the National Museums in Berlin.

The New Cities Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation founded in 2010, is due to host the third New Cities Summit in Dallas next June.

By Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper.

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , , , ,

Managing Spontaneity : a conversation with the authors of Eventful Cities

An ART-idea* conversation with the authors of Eventful Cities, Greg Richards and Robert Palmer, took place in Barcelona on 17th April 2013. The event brought together a select group of experts and practitioners from across Europe to share and discuss ideas about the future of cities and events.


Eventful cities are constantly evolving in the face of emerging challenges, particularly the current economic crisis and major shifts in the social fabric of communities. The discussion identified a number of key issues, ranging from the understanding of multiple identities of cities, changing nature of city governance, increasing complexity of brokering relationships with increasingly diverse city stakeholders, and the need for new approaches when bidding for international events, to the limitations of current methodologies and the deliberate misrepresentation of results of event evaluations and impact studies.

A need was identified to move from economic based event indicators to a wider concept of public value. The value-led argument should no longer centre on economic benefits but rather incorporate a more sophisticated and multi-polar approach to assessing the value of the cultural events.

The final session of the conversation was dedicated to looking at the future challenges for cities and considered wider implications for events in cities. Several challenges were highlighted:

  • Increased demand by citizens to reclaim public space
  • Growing need amongst people to come together in mass events (what Greg Richards referred to as the “need for physical co-presence.”)
  • Rising disillusionment with mega events that exclude genuine citizen engagement
  • Proliferation of spontaneous events (that ignore rules of conventional event management as practiced traditionally by local authorities)
  • Growth in events that challenge the boundaries of authority and usual consumer behavior

Taken together, these trends point to significant challenges to the approach of cities when managing events. It will be increasingly complex to manage security by issuing permits –the flash mob disappears before the police arrive! The renewed demands from citizens for the right to utilize public space in “their” city will be increasingly difficult to ignore, persuading authorities to re-examine and embrace the demonstration of different expressions of public creativity. It may be that city authorities will need to find ways to allow citizens to design their own events, taking what Robert Palmer identified as a more “prosumptive” approach to participation that will require events facilitation rather thanmanagement. Managing spontaneity will demand a new set of skills.

The next Conversation will be held in September 2013 and will consider “the possible end to the approach to city cultural policy as we know it.” With redundant art forms, new forms of participation, the changing role of arts subsidy and a new ecology for culture, the debate will look at the feasibility of a needs/rights based policy approach that is no longer driven by economics.

The aim of the conversation is for you to have an input and use the opportunity to ask burning questions or test your own theories and analysis. The conversation takes place in a combination of formal and informal settings -and is moderated to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate.


*ARTidea is a non-profit association dedicated to exploring creative and artistic solutions for local and regional development.

About Eventful cities on CEG :

Filed under: Analyses, Evénements, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, Ressources, , , , , , , ,

Plymouth City of Culture 2017

538109_263457633787771_42639855_nThe UK City of Culture programme is an initiative which aims to encourage the use of culture and creativity to promote and encourage aspiratoins, ambitions, innovations and inspirations for everyone who lives in and visits the city.
The aim of Plymouth entry into the UK City of Culture competition is that Plymouth should fulfil its potential as a distinctive, dynamic cultural centre of regional, national and international renown. Plymouth is a city defined by the moors and the Ocean, by his history, his heritage, his resilience, and by his aspirations for the future.
The Plymouth City of Culture 2017 bid is led by the Plymouth Culture Board. This Board is made up of expert volunteers from a variety of backgrounds with strengths and influences across a broad range of the cultural sectors in the city.
Culture – our « Vital Spark » – is not exclusive, not just for the « elite ». It is as much about reading a book, kicking a ball in the park, going to a gig, meeting our friends, eating and drinking, as it is about opera, ballet and Shakespeare. It is about what people do, and how people do it, about what people think is important. It taps into our ideas, knowledge, values and beliefs. It gives us roots and affirms our sense of identity.

Filed under: Evénements, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , ,

Les clusters culturels et médiatiques : émergence, gouvernance et évaluation

mime-attachmentLes journées d’économie de la culture et de la communication du DEPS réunissent tous les deux ans des chercheurs, des acteurs économiques et des professionnels du champ culturel et médiatique pour mettre en débat les résultats de la recherche en économie portant sur les arts du spectacle vivant, le patrimoine, les arts plastiques et les industries de la culture et de la communication.

La 6e édition des journées sera consacrée à l’émergence, la gouvernance et l’évaluation des clusters culturels et médiatiques.

Les rapports entre les activités culturelles et médiatiques et les territoires font l’objet d’une attention renouvelée. Ils sont au centre de nombreux débats contemporains et occupent une place importante dans les prises de position et la communication d’une grande diversité d’acteurs nationaux et territoriaux. L’agglomération intentionnelle sur un territoire d’entreprises, d’organisations et de structures – appelée cluster, grappe ou pôle – est un des phénomènes les plus observés et discutés récemment.

Au cours de la dernière décennie, de nombreux travaux ont porté sur les clusters du domaine culturel et médiatique, poussés, entre autres, par des interrogations en matière d’intervention publique sur le caractère spontané de leur constitution et la possibilité pour les pouvoirs publics d’initier, ou du moins d’encourager, le phénomène d’agglomération. Face à l’ampleur, la diversité et l’hétérogénéité des résultats d’études et de recherches sur le sujet, il importe de faire un point sur l’état du savoir économique tout en discutant ces résultats à la lumière des expériences françaises et étrangères.

Les intervenants (économistes, urbanistes, géographes, responsables et professionnels) traiteront des deux thématiques suivantes : les choix de localisation des organisations créatives et l’émergence des clusters ; leur gouvernance et leur évaluation.

S’inscrire et participer

Source : ministère de la Culture et de la Communication et Stéréolux

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Reims, un temps d’avance

En matière financement de l’action publique, la conjoncture dans laquelle nous nous trouvons est désormais fortement impactante pour les collectivités territoriales. Tous les domaines d’intervention sont effectivement concernés et il faut dire et redire ici que si la crise est venu amplifier le phénomène, on ne peut lui faire porter la responsabilité de tous les maux. Les crédits publics diminuent depuis de longues années : réformes (et non réformes) de l’Etat, de la fiscalité locale et des collectivités et la réorientation des financements européens ont notamment modifié l’ingénierie financière des acteurs publics et leurs capacités à trouver les ressources nécessaires pour continuer à vivre au-dessus de leur moyens tout en maintenant leur capacité de financer leurs actions et leurs projets. Il est donc logique de voir désormais cette capacité évoluer, muter, s’adapter aux nouvelles réalités d’aujourd’hui.

Ce que certains appelaient de façon péremptoire l’économie du 100% subventions publiques est révolue et la relation de partenariat entre le public et le privé, entre le collectif et le particulier, est devenue essentielle pour favoriser, initier, développer et pérenniser bon nombre de projets.

Certains acteurs, dont certaines collectivités territoriales, ont pris les devants en recherchant de nouvelles modalités de cofinancement en explorant de nouvelles pistes, notamment à travers le mécénat, les services au public, le développement de recettes annexes, les fonds d’investissements, les fonds de dotation et autres outils qui sont désormais plus que jamais à leur disposition.

En matière de mécénat, si il faut se réjouir que le dispositif fiscal n’ait pas été revu à la baisse par l’Etat en 2012, il faut tout de même craindre que cela se produise en 2013 et la nécessité de s’adapter à l’évolution de ce domaine, évolution qui face à la baisse globale des dons, conduit les acteurs, les institutions et les services publics à miser sur de nouvelles approches qui se fondent notamment sur la relation de proximité. C’est là que des collectivités ou des villes comme Reims, au travers du rôle que la culture joue dans la qualité de son cadre de vie et de la place déterminante que tient le critère de qualité du cadre de vie dans le rayonnement et l’attractivité du territoire, tient un atout majeur et doit pouvoir en exploiter pleinement les potentiels.

C’est en effet toute la diversité des sources et des ressources qui sont désormais mobilisables, conduisant ainsi les acteurs à considérer de manière précise le recours à des formes de financement privé pour accompagner le financement public et non s’y substituer. C’est l’inévitable recentrage de la mission de service public sur ses cœurs de métiers et ses missions régaliennes qui s’opère, la droite comme la gauche l’appellent de leurs vœux, chacun à sa manière. En abandonnant de vastes étendues de domaines de compétences sans véritable cohérence de traitement dans accompagnement de transition, de transfert, de compensation ou d’indemnisation selon les secteurs d’action concernés, les collectivités territoriales et locales se retrouvent dans une situation qui est lourde d’ambigüités. Pour faire face à ces ambigüités, il faut beaucoup de discernement et de courage politique.

Cette nécessité incite donc à imaginer toutes les ressources possibles dans leur grande diversité. Cette diversité conduit également à ne plus simplement rechercher la sollicitation ponctuelle au partenaire mais à s’inscrire dans une relation sur la durée. Pour qu’il y ait relation il faut qu’il y ait sens à mutuellement s’investir dans une démarche qui doit être « gagnant-gagnant » comme on dit communément, qui doit être sécurisée au plan juridique et financier et qui produit de la valeur ajoutée pour le projet, son public et ses acteurs.

C’est donc désormais la question des nouveaux outils de gestion et des supports de ces formes de financement qui doit être développée par ceux qui souhaitent avoir recours à ces nouvelles ressources. De nombreuses solutions proviennent de la finance elle-même ou du secteur bancaire comme les produits d’investissement, d’autres proviennent du monde des assureurs mais aussi des acteurs du terrain eux mêmes comme l’épargne solidaire, la participation au capital d’un financeur culturel, le mécénat de compétences, le financement participatif, etc.

On trouve également des formes importantes de cofinancement par le biais de recettes dites « annexes » basées sur des services au public développés par le partenaire qui viennent étendre la capacité des acteurs publics et préservent la mission de service public.

Dans tous les cas, il s’agit là aussi d’une ingénierie spécifique qu’il convient d’étudier.

Face à la multiplication des besoins, des modalités et des ressources, l’objectif est donc d’adopter les outils et la gestion les plus pertinents et structurants pour la soutenabilité de l’action publique et les collectivités ne sont pas en reste en la matière, bien au contraire, elles sont souvent pionnières !

Reims figure parmi celles-ci, avec une singularité très signifiante : la création en 2010 d’une mission mécénat directement initialement intégrée à la Direction des Affaires Culturelles. Cette mission mécénat est ensuite « remontée » dans l’organigramme des services de la municipalité pour être désormais rattachée à la direction générale, ce qui constitue en soit un fort niveau de prise en compte de l’intérêt de la relation partenariale aux opérateurs économiques dans tous les domaines et champs de compétence de l’action publique. De nombreux projets peuvent être ainsi accompagnés pour partie et complément par une ingénierie, des outils et des démarches maîtrisés, ce qui est une assurance supplémentaire et réciproque pour les partenaires.

Parmi ses outils, le fonds de dotation figure en bonne place. En effet, au regard des expériences de fonds de dotation existant en France ou des dispositifs similaires en place à l’étranger, il apparaît intéressant de se pencher sur leur pertinence et leur intérêt. C’est en tout cas ce que plusieurs collectivités étudient, comme Reims actuellement.

A titre d’exemple, au risque de surprendre, il faut bien reconnaître que Reims a un temps d’avance sur un territoire comme Lyon, pourtant très à la pointe et pionnière dans de très nombreux domaines. La Communauté Urbaine de Lyon n’a jusqu’à présent songé au fonds de dotation que de façon ponctuelle, sans parvenir à structurer ses démarches de mécénat comme le fait déjà Reims. On pourrait dire la même chose d’autres métropoles réputées dynamiques et créatives comme Nantes, Bordeaux ou Paris, qui n’ont pas encore songé à structurer leurs démarches comme le fait déjà Reims. Celles-ci n’utilisent le fonds de dotation que dans sa définition la plus stricte et n’ont pas encore cherché à l’appréhender de la façon la plus large possible.

Le fonds de dotation a été créé par la loi de modernisation économique du 4 août 2008. Il est une personne morale de droit privé à but non lucratif qui capitalise les dons en vue de la réalisation d’une œuvre d’intérêt général. Cette notion d’intérêt général est essentielle, notamment au regard de son acceptation au sens du droit communautaire. Cela permet de préfigurer les outils de développement de l’action publique.

Nos voisins britanniques et néerlandais, ou encore les canadiens, pourtant très coutumiers du partenariat public privé, semblent particulièrement intéressés par le fonds de dotation et étudient en ce moment les modalités qui permettent de l’ « agenciariser », voire de l’ « institutitonnaliser ».

C’est une des pistes qui est en cours d’exploration à Reims. Nous aurons l’occasion d’y revenir une fois ces travaux et réflexions aboutis mais il est clair qu’en cherchant à se doter d’un véritable outil de développement du territoire et d’accompagnement de l’action publique, la Ville de Reims et sa mission mécénat sont probablement en train de montrer le chemin.

Filed under: Analyses, Financement de projet, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Outils, Politiques culturelles, , , , , , ,

L’année du design n’aura pas été vaine à Helsinki

Helsinki est cette année capitale mondiale du design. Selon un sondage du quotidien Helsingin Sanomat, seulement un cinquième de la population de l’agglomération d’Helsinki a participé à l’une des nombreuses manifestations. Pour le quotidien libéral, cela n’est pas dramatique : « Le principal, cette année, c’est que les citoyens, les décideurs et les chefs d’entreprise aient commencé à réfléchir au design et à la planification. Bien planifier peut permettre de faciliter la vie et la rendre plus agréable. Parallèlement, un design de qualité est lucratif pour les entreprises finlandaises et pour le pays tout entier, et apporte la célébrité. Il est dommage que seul un cinquième de la population de la capitale ait participé à une manifestation de ce type, mais ce n’est pas une catastrophe. L’objectif de cette initiative n’était pas d’amener les citoyens à faire la fête dans les rues. … Nous pourrons observer les résultats de ces événements seulement dans quelques années. Nous pourrons alors constater si le design de qualité a eu des répercussions sur la planification d’usines, d’offres gastronomiques pour les seniors ou sur le paysage urbain. »

Source : BpB

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Mythos Berlin – a London perspective

A city in a unrestrained process-like state, a world of a bit away of the usual progress-driven narrative

Even a simple question like ‘What is a city?’ triggers an endless cascade of new questions. A city can never have a singular objective identity, it has to live with the identities which are ascribed by its inhabitants. Berlin often is described as a city that just defines its era.

In terms of exploring the role and reputation of the city as a capital of contemporary cultural production certain words are recurring as soon as conversations in London and across Europe comes to Berlin: creative hub, low rents, bohemian life, searching and finding inspiration. That’s it? Wuppertal-born art collector Christian Boros notes: “Wuppertal is cheap too. It does not explain the fascination of Berlin.”

What makes Berlin THE city to live right now?

A Monument for Nonsense by J.Prezewowsky | © Swantje Diepenhorst

A Monument for Nonsense by J.Prezewowsky | © Swantje Diepenhorst

Thus there must be more. Boros says “the mythical status of Berlin is based on the fact that you have to fight with very few limitations. A lot is possible here. To feel free is very attractive and erotic.” Sexy Berlin mixed with imperfection, openess and curiosity – indeed that are already a few more unique qualities.

Opened by the Ambassador Georg Boomgaarden the exhibition “Mythos Berlin – a London perspective” started last week in the German Embassy at Belgrave Square. The artists in the exhibition include Erin Hughes & Jennifer Mustapha, Jan Kaesbach, Robert Rapoport, Daniel Udy and Viktor Timofeev shows examples of the influence that Berlin as a working place has on contemporary artists’ practice and lifestyle.

In the First Gallery Room there is a sculpture / installation with the title “Declarations – Monument for Nonsense” by Julia Prezewowsky. This artwork says, that it’s a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information. At least it’s branded with this statement. At first glance it doesn’t might be a compliment for Berlin, but actually it is – it suits to the very few limitations, Boros mentioned. It tells about the creative freedom people can find in Berlin.

Open spaces and gaps to fill

That's a very dark sky.. 'Cloudsync' by Viktor Timofeev (2012) | © S.D.

That’s a very dark sky.. ‘Cloudsync’ by Viktor Timofeev (2012) | © S.D.

Here are still open spaces, while in cities such as London or New York it is a lot more difficult to find gaps to fill. For Boros it is the work ofManfred Pernice that really reflects Berlin’s patchwork, crafty and process-like state. His work deals a lot with architecture – his cans and blocks reflect what is often called the ‘Verdosung’ / ‘containerisation’ of society.

During the past twenty years Berlin’s reputation in the world has changed immensely: from the scarred, divided and unsettled victim of Third Reich and Cold War politics to an iconic, vibrant and artistic metropole. A unrestrained, productive and social place to life. Like Susanna Davis-Crook, who left London not just for work but for cycling around and think, emigres to Berlin, particularly those from business capitals, escape their respective cities for the exemption from a world of progress-driven narrative. For Susanna ideas more easily become action in Berlin, where in London risk assessments take up more time than planning the show. This might be the fundamental difference between creativity in Berlin and in London.

We are constructing our version of city

From a London perspective.. | © Swantje Diepenhorst

From a London perspective.. | © Swantje Diepenhorst

At the end there are of course billions of views and none of the Berliners (or Londoners) live ‘in the same city’. What we all do is to construct our own versions, inventing a city that allows us to be ourselves (at best). We can do this because, as Jonathan Raban explained in his brilliant book Soft Cities back in 1974, cities are plastic by nature: ‘We mould them in our images: they, in their turn, shape us by the resistance they offer when we try to impose our own personal form on them.’ We’re all involved in this process, whether we are artists or not. Urban living is an artwork for itself, whether it is in Berlin or in London.

Source : Labkultur

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Singapore : arts and culture strategic review recommends ground-up cultural development

Following an extensive public consultation, the Arts and Culture Strategic Review (ACSR) Steering Committee has refined its recommendations and submitted its final report to the Government on 31 January 2012. The ACSR’s vision for 2025 is for Singapore to be a nation of cultured and gracious people, at home with our heritage, and proud of our Singaporean identity. To achieve this vision, the ACSR recommends that our next phase of cultural development be driven from the ground up, supported by a comprehensive suite of proposals aimed at creating a conducive environment for all stakeholders to enjoy arts and culture in Singapore.

Extensive Consultation Shows Strong Support for Arts and Culture 

  • The final report follows the ACSR’s seven-month long public consultation phase, comprising numerous consultation platforms to reach a broad range of stakeholders and members of the public. The public consultation platforms included an online consultation portal, telephone surveys, focus group discussions, interviews, and public forums.
  • During the consultation, the Steering Committee was very heartened by the strong affirmation from the respondents on the value of arts and culture, even from those who were not currently involved in arts and culture. For example, close to 90% of respondents to the telephone survey agreed that arts and culture activities can develop shared experiences and bring people closer to one another, and more than 80% agreed that they can enhance our quality of life.  The public also welcomed the ACSR’s proposals, and its efforts to bring arts and culture practitioners, the community and the Government together for a constructive conversation on the future of our arts and culture landscape. The Steering Committee views that this reveals a maturing society that appreciates the intangible value of arts and culture, that is ready to contribute their talent and enthusiasm towards improving our arts and culture landscape.

Changing Roles of the Community, Artists and Government

  • To achieve the ACSR’s vision, the Committee believes that it is necessary for the mindsets and roles of our community, our arts and culture practitioners, and the Government to evolve:
  • The community could adopt an open mindset to explore new interests, and consider being more active consumers, audiences and participants of arts and culture, by tapping on the wide range of activities already available, as well as resources provided by the Government. The community could also take greater ownership of our cultural development, organise activities, and co-create an environment and identity that authentically reflects who we are as a people and what we value.
  • Our practitioners, as creators of arts and culture, could consider providing a wider range of quality arts and culture offerings to reach out to more audiences, and help raise their appreciation of our local talent. They could also continue to strive towards raising their standards, and be recognised and well-loved both locally and overseas.
  • The Government could move towards being an enabler, playing a facilitative rather than a top-down role, by providing funding, facilities and frameworks to create a nurturing environment where artistic creation and participation can thrive. This could be open to all art forms and all segments of the community, to debunk the misperception that arts and culture is ‘elitist’.

Promoting Engagement and Excellence

  • To catalyse this transformation, the ACSR has recommended a comprehensive suite of initiatives, along two main thrusts
  • Promoting active participation in arts and culture: The ACSR recommends greater support for potential arts and culture participants, hobbyists and enthusiasts, to make arts and culture more accessible and easily interwoven into daily life. This includes enhancing our people’s ability to appreciate arts and culture; affordable and convenient venues for practice and showcase purposes; platforms to network enthusiasts with one another; and greater support for community interest groups (e.g. through start-up grants, starter toolkits, workshops and partnerships with instructors).
  • Enhancing capabilities of our practitioners – both enthusiasts and professional – to develop quality offerings: The ACSR recommends enhancing collaboration opportunities, showcase platforms, education and training, and infrastructural facilities for our practitioners. In addition, the ACSR recommends enhancing the Government’s funding frameworks to streamline administrative requirements and better meet specific needs of arts companies and institutions.

Proposed initiatives includes, amongst others, the following: 

  • “Arts and Culture 101” series: Programmes such as talks, hands-on activities, and the creation of art works under the guidance of practitioners are recommended to introduce the general public to arts and culture. This should include all forms of arts and culture – from more conventional forms such as poetry and painting, to more inclusive forms such as manga and community singing.
  • A one-stop portal, ArtsCultureSG: This portal could include an up-to-date database of programmes and activities, as well as facts, figures and write-ups on our cultural scene and professionals. It could serve as a connecting point for hobbyists and practitioners with similar interests to facilitate the organisation of activities, exchange of ideas and collaborations. Similar services could also be provided over-the-counter at the proposed “cultural concierges” in libraries.
  • Improved cultural facilities in heartlands: To establish more professional yet affordable practice and presentation spaces, existing cultural facilities in the heartlands such as auditoriums, music studios and dance studios could be enhanced to more professional standards, to support the arts and culture needs of the local community as well as practitioners.
  • Optimise funding to meet art companies’ different organisational and developmental needs: The Government’s funding frameworks should be reviewed to differentiate between established and emerging companies, as companies have different developmental needs at different stages of their growth. For example, established companies require funding to drive education, outreach and industry development, and raise their international standing, while emerging companies need funding for growth.
  • New continuing education and training (CET) opportunities for practitioners: Additional CET programmes should be provided and/or subsidised through collaborations with industry partners and arts institutions, as well as through establishing new CET providers. These sector-led and sector-focused programmes will raise standards among our practitioners, while helping to enhance their employability.

The full range of proposed initiatives will benefit all stakeholder groups, including students, working adults, families, hobbyists, enthusiasts, arts and culture companies and professionals. A sampling of the ACSR’s more than 100 initiatives, and their impact on the various stakeholders, is in Annex A. The full ACSR report can be found at
The submission of the ACSR’s final report concludes the work which the ACSR Steering Committee began in September 2010. (See Annex B for the background of the ACSR and the composition of the Steering Committee.)

Source : MICA

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City of Chicago Launches 2012 Cultural Plan Initiative

Chicago Cultural Plan

Last week, the City of Chicago launched a new initiative to develop the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan. The plan will create a framework to guide Chicago’s future cultural and economic growth as the centerpiece for elevating the City as a global destination for creativity, innovation and excellence. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is seeking input from Chicago’s residents, cultural organizations, neighborhood groups as well as the private and philanthropic sectors. The Plan will set out the blueprint for a vital and leading edge cultural Chicago.

Chicago has the third largest creative economy in the United States with 24,000 arts enterprises, including nearly 650 non-profit arts organizations, generating more than $2 billion annually and employing 150,000 people. Chicago’s creative vibrancy generates jobs, attracts new businesses and visitors to the city, and improves the overall quality of life in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

To further the conversation and to allow an even greater role, the planning process seeks input online and through comprehensive social media outlets with the launch of Additionally, a citywide public engagement process begins on February 15th, including town hall meetings, neighborhood cultural conversations, a youth forum, and cultural sector summits. The final plan will be unveiled in the fall.

“We are creating a new Cultural Plan to address the challenges our city faces today and to identify opportunities for the future,” said Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We want residents and community leaders to help shape a plan that will guide the City’s cultural growth and to reinforce Chicago as a global destination for the arts.”

For the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announcement, click here.

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Londres 2012, un pari de passion et de raison ?

La BBC a diffusé tout récemment une très riche enquête de terrain en deux parties, venant s’ajouter à la longue liste des témoignages sur les régénérations urbaines et socio-culturelles en cours sur l’Est de Londres, et plus particulièrement dans les quartiers où se situe le site olympique. Un plaidoyer pour la dynamique politique et l’initiative culturelle et sociale « à l’anglaise » qui produit un effet miroir édifiant pour les territoires qui se replient sur eux-mêmes et qui démontre de la puissance et de la force économique, sociale et culturelle de la métropole, de ses communautés, de son état d’esprit si unique.

On ne peut pas éluder la question : les moyens colossaux mis en œuvre pour faire sortir de terre les équipements olympiques dans les temps (12 milliards de livres), auxquels s’ajoutent les plus de 600 millions de livres pour les Olympiades des Arts, pouvaient indiquer non sans craintes que cette course ne serait motivée que par le grandiose, l’éphémère de l’événement, la recherche du maximum de profitabilité et de visibilité immédiates, le tout au détriment de l’essentiel. Et bien, à ce stade, le sentiment général est partagé entre passion et raison.

Les aigreurs plus ou moins argumentées ou justifées de l’échec de la candidature française pour les JO de 2012 sont littéralement balayées par les dynamiques et les pratiques locales qui voient le jour et qui ont été initiées dans le cadre de la candidature de Londres en lien étroit avec la politique de la ville. Si on prend le quartier de Newham, zone industrielle sinistrée, c’est une métamorphose complète qui s’est opérée en 10 ans alors que tous s’accordent à dire qu’il aurait fallu 3 à 4 fois plus de temps pour obtenir le même résultat sans les Jeux.

La contribution des Jeux est colossale, elle déplace le centre de gravité de Londres et permettra à la métropole de s’offrir le plus grand parc urbain créé en Europe depuis 150 ans, de créer un complexe immobilier de 1429 maisons, de faire pousser un centre commercial à Westfiled qui aura coûté 2 milliards de livres (!), de revigorer l’emploi (40 000 personnes ont déjà travaillé sur les sites olympiques) et l’économie (avec 98% des contrats de constructions conclus avec des entreprises du Royaume-Uni), etc.

Pour ne prendre que Stratford City, le projet immobilier dont les coûts sont partagés entre secteur public et secteur privé, l’Etat a procédé à la viabilisation des terrains et c’est au promoteur Chelsfield, d’assurer la livraison des équipements et résidences entre 2007 et 2020. Les 4 800 logements destinés à accueillir les sportifs des Jeux seront revendus ou transformés en partie en logements sociaux. Ce projet de 1,3 million de m², inclura aussi 460 000 m² de bureaux, 150 000 m² de commerces, 2 000 chambres d’hôtel.

Tous les ingrédients économiques, touristiques et culturels sont réunis pour que Londres prenne une nouvelle avance dans tous les domaines et comme Barcelone en son temps, la métropole se réinvente en prenant bien soin de réunir tous les facteurs clés du succès de son attractivité pour les décennies à venir, ce qui était très loin d’être le cas dans le projet de candidature parisienne quoi qu’on en dise.

Dans ces documentaires et reportages, chaque image transpire la fierté et le sentiment d’être partie prenante, directement ou indirectement, quelle que soit la communauté à laquelle on appartient, quelle que soit sa catégorie socio-professionnelle. Chaque témoignage porte l’espoir d’un nouvel avenir bien au-delà de l’événement et c’est peut-être cela qui décuple les énergies du « ici et maintenant », comme on dit depuis que la compétition entre les métropoles du monde a décuplé sous l’influence des fonds souverains. Mais peu importe, il faut aussi savoir regarder les choses au plus près du terrain et au-delà de la vitrine qu’on s’efforce de nous proposer pour 2012.

Ce qui frappe dans cette fierté, c’est son caractère familier, intégrée dans l’esprit de chacun et dans les moindres aspects du quotidien, support d’action des instutions culturelles et sociales, objet de toutes les initiatives ou presque. Un espoir de régénération qui fait oublier les chantiers, les problèmes de circulation et de stationnement, qui atténue le poids de la crise, parce que ce qui se joue va bien au-delà de l’événement proprement dit : c’est la qualité du cadre de vie dont on prépare assiduement un héritage positif mais néanmoins complexe et préocupant.

Ce qui frappe c’est l’énergie déployée pour faire revivre le territoire, c’est l’enthousiasme de tous, y compris parmi ceux qui ont souffert et qui souffrent de la marginalisation de ces quartiers après la désindustrialisation ce cette partie tant déshéritée de Londres.

Ce qui frappe, c’est la quantité des projets locaux, comme si chaque personne était un projet en soi bénéficiant d’une émulation inconnue jusqu’alors.

C’est peut-être là que la différence se fait : dans la conviction que l’initiative privée est un support de l’intérêt général, dans la responsabilité partagée collectivement et individuellement et dont la cohésion sociale qu’elle engendre n’est pas qu’un objet de discours ou d’expérimentations vaines. C’est un fait culturel qui n’a rien de dogmatique ni de politique, contrairement à notre manière de concevoir la société en France, c’est un état d’esprit qui ne se fonde sur aucune règle établie de manière normative, autoritaire et centralisatrice. C’est une différence et une spécificité culturelles essentielle pour prévenir de toute tentation de transposition ou de comparaison à des fins électorales (comme c’est le cas avec l’Allemagne en ce moment dans la campagne présidentielle actuellement en France qui compare tout à tout pour soit créer les conditions du changement maintenant soit exploiter toutes les forces du pays pour sumonter la crise).

Alors oui, Londres, comme Barcelone en 1992, souhaite utiliser les JO pour véhiculer un message puissant au monde, Londres instrumentalise les JO pour véhiculer plusieurs messages : 
 incarner la ville de demain, tenir son rang de capitale économique du monde tout en étant une ville agréable à vivre, une ville durable et innovante, mais où l’innovation sociale est aussi importante que le développement économique. Et il est passionnant de voir comment tous les talents sont mis au service de cette innovation sociale.

Pour autant, avec de telles ambitions en construction, cela va-t-il entraîner une « gentrification » des ces quartiers comme c’est déjà le cas des quartiers plus à l’ouest et au sud de Londres ? La fameuse classe créative de Florida respectera-t-elle tant que cela la mixité sociale du terrain et les populations locales vont-elles tirer profit de cette régénération ?

La question de l’héritage des Jeux une fois ceux-ci terminées se pose depuis le début et compte tenu de la part laissée aux promoteurs immobiliers, l’impact économique des JO peut laisser supposer que les prix de l’immobilier risquent d’exploser et de pousser les habitants actuels à s’installer dans d’autres quartiers si rien n’est fait pour préserver la mixité. En même temps, on peut tout autant espérer que ce qui est approprié et en train de s’approprier par les habitants favorise dès à présent une inclusion sociale qu’on a rarement vue ailleurs et qui devra être prise en compte lors de l’après Jeux.

Les promoteurs bénéficiant d’un niveau général de taxe relativement bas à Londres, ils financent les équipements locaux en contre partie, c’est une mécanique anglaise bien huilée.

Dans ces conditions, on peut considérer les enjeux de deux manières complémentaires :

  • la régnération urbaine qui se régule uniquement par les infrastructures et les équipements fait courir le risque d’une déresponsabilisation de la collectivité vis-à-vis du sort réservé à ses administrés et la collectivité doit se donner les moyens (y compris contractuels) d’une vigilence totale en la matière ;
  • Londres est une ville qui se renouvelle continuellement au grès de ses mutations fonctionnelles et modes architecturales et de ce point de vue les Jeux (avec toutes les leçons qu’on peut tirer des éditions précédentes) portent les conditions de la soutenabilité de la régénération urbaine des quartiers les plus défavorisés respectueuse de la mixité et de l’innovation sociale tout en démultipliant autrement le rayonnement et l’attractivité de la métropole.

Si vous avez assisté aux cérémonies du nouvel an à Londres et notamment le spectacle pyrotechnique époustouflant à tous les sens du terme et à sa ferveur londonienne, on a envie d’y croire dans tous les cas. Rêve ou mirage, il y déjà de nombreux éléments de réponse sur le terrain.

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Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / Final

We are honoured and deligheted to publish Dr Roberta Comunian’s* last article engaging with the current research and debate about the creative city and the importance of cultural infrastructure in contemporary cities. It argues that much of the focus has been around the investment of cities in specific regeneration projects or flagship developments rather than addressing the nature of the infrastructures, networks and agents engaging in the city’s cultural development. The complexity theory and its associated principles can provide a new understanding of the connection between the urban space and the systems of local cultural production and consumption. Drawing on interviews with creative practitioners in the North East region of England, the paper argues that the cultural development of a city is a complex adaptive system. This finding has implication both for policy makers and academic research. It emphases the importance of micro-interactions and network between creative practitioners, the publicly supported cultural sector and the cultural infrastructure of the city.

6. Conclusions: rethinking the creative city

How can complexity theory help us rethink the structures and potential of the concept of the creative city? First, complexity interaction imposes a new way of looking at how local contexts and the cultural agents and actors of the city interact. It suggests that in order to evaluate or research the creative city, a multi-level approach must be kept in mind, to allow consideration of how different actors and institutions interact in the city.  The literature suggests that the creative industries have been characterised as “having a ‘hive mentality’, informally networked ‘scenes’ which can operate very effectively in some ways. But in others the very informality can be problematic in terms of policy development” (O’Connor, 2002, p.28). Much of the regeneration literature and policy action towards the creative city have been focussed on formal investments, large cultural flagship projects, and image. On the contrary, networks seem to be central to the delivery of a better and more sustainable support system which answers the needs of creative industries. However it also important not to limit support to the mainstream, established networks. and also support the more hidden or transient ones, as these can provide the vital first steps into the sector. For example, in the North East, along with supporting established organisation like New Writing North it is important to support smaller local networks of writers or people interested in literature, as in the case of the The Blue Room [i], where interaction occurs on a wider social level without implying any strong commitment.

Culture North East (2001) states in the Regional Cultural Strategy for the North East of England “the regional cultural strategy calls for agencies supporting the sector to be entrepreneurial and opportunistic in their approach, to help create an environment where there is serious investment in innovation and risk taking at the grass roots level, which supports a continuum from cultural activity to commercial activity and retains talent in the region” (p.27). The opposition between large capital investments in the region and support for local networks can become a challenge. Sometimes it possible to see that public money is more easily directed towards large institutions or infrastructures while networks represent a soft infrastructure which is difficult to define and to invest in.

This paper has attempted to use complexity theory to highlight some of the dynamics in the creative economy of a city against a common tendency towards reductionism, where the creative economy discourse is used as a mathematical formula which can be applied to all contexts and times. The arguments presented suggest that we should consider the creative and cultural factor as constitutive and grounded in the urban context rather than simply instrumentally additive to other urban discourses of economic growth.  Also, Ormerod (1998) argues the need for a less mechanistic approach to the study of economic phenomena: “Economies and societies are not machines. They are more like living organisms. Individuals do not act in isolation, but affect each other in complex ways” (Ormerod, 1998: x). As Landry (2000) recognises “successful cities seem to have some things in common – visionary individuals, creative organisations and a political culture sharing a clarity of purpose. They seemed to follow a determined, not a deterministic path”  (Landry, 2000, p.3).

New understandings of the dynamics of the creative economy need to be implemented. This new approach must bridge the gap between the top-down approach of policy making and investment in the cultural infrastructure of a city, with a grounded understanding of the emergent structures arising from actors and agencies interacting in the sector. As Green (2001) underlines the challenging aspect  of complexity theory when applied to social systems is that instead of seeing how a social system changes as being a function of how it is, it clearly acknowledges that how it changes – even those small little changes at the grassroots level – affects how it is, and how it subsequently change again. This should be the new challenge for researchers wanting to investigate the role of culture in urban environments.

[i] The Blue Room is a project supported by the Arts Council North East with the aim to “encourage new women – and men – writers to read their work, and promoting new audiences for live poetry and prose”  (from the website and consists of a serial of monthly informal events taking place in a local pub / venue.


*Dr. Roberta Comunian is Creative Industries Research Associate at the School of Arts, University of Kent. Prior to this, she was lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She holds a European Doctorate title in Network Economy and Knowledge Management. She is interested in: relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural regeneration projects, cultural and creative industries, creativity and competitiveness. She has been visiting researcher at University of Newcastle investigating the relationship between creative industries, cultural policy and public supported art institutions. She has previously undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries within an AHRC Impact Fellowship award at the University of Leeds.


Previous chapters :

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 1

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 2

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 3

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 4

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 5

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 6

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Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 6

We are honoured and deligheted to publish Dr Roberta Comunian’s* last article engaging with the current research and debate about the creative city and the importance of cultural infrastructure in contemporary cities. It argues that much of the focus has been around the investment of cities in specific regeneration projects or flagship developments rather than addressing the nature of the infrastructures, networks and agents engaging in the city’s cultural development. The complexity theory and its associated principles can provide a new understanding of the connection between the urban space and the systems of local cultural production and consumption. Drawing on interviews with creative practitioners in the North East region of England, the paper argues that the cultural development of a city is a complex adaptive system. This finding has implication both for policy makers and academic research. It emphases the importance of micro-interactions and network between creative practitioners, the publicly supported cultural sector and the cultural infrastructure of the city.

5.3 Connectivity, interdependence and self-organisation.

A complex system is characterized by interaction and inter-connectivity of the agents of the system and between the system as a whole and its environment. The level of interaction generates the complexity. If one looks at the culture offered by a city, it is easy to see how different organisations build partnerships and collaborate on events and projects. The private and public sectors often come together, and the connectivity in the contemporary art and cultural scene arises from the overlapping and exchange between different art forms. One element that is perceived as a key factor for the development of this connectivity in the context of Newcastle-Gateshead has been the joint bid for the Capital of Culture title. Although the title was eventually awarded to Liverpool, the process behind the joint bid started to build dialogue between different organisations, and fostered a new ability to work together. Matarasso (2000) stresses the importance of the bidding process itself, specifically referring to Newcastle-Gateshead. It promoted the debate on the importance of culture; it encouraged the networking of cultural institutions, created partnerships and common goals and provided a strong experience in terms of acquiring competences for cultural planning and management which is long-lasting legacy in the urban context.

In the first 18 months I was here we worked in shared public projects with almost every cultural organisation in the city it was a very deliberate policy, we also opened the building to creative people, young people in the region, people who had no real access to other venues […] the first people were not filmmakers but DJs, poets, people working at the fringe of this medium (Director, Public Cultural Organisation, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

But the connectivity and interdependence runs not only at the macro-level of agencies and institutions, but also at the micro-level in the creation of networks between creative and cultural practitioners (see paragraph 5.5). Responding to emergent properties or to particular innovative and enabling contexts, a complex cultural system can experience self-organisation. In the context of cultural and creative practitioners, self-organisation seems to be a common trend. In particular through collectives of artists, voluntary run spaces and galleries, but also through networks which are run organically and developed from the grassroots by artists (see paragraph 5.5)


5.4 Emergent properties, qualities, patterns or structures.

One of the complexity aspects which also characterized the creative and cultural infrastructure of the city, is the emergence of specific structure that regulate and inform the environment.

These emerging structures can be identified with creative clusters (Pratt, 2004) and the development of organic and institutional networks to support and govern the cultural actors and their agencies.

The fast growth of the sector as a whole can be seen as an emergence pattern: “The North East has grown faster than any other region except Scotland, but from a lower base than any other region” (CURDS, 2001, p.23). As Allen (1997) suggests these emerging structures are not determined uniquely by the context and its parameters, but are also dependent on timing and specific external intervention. This is where the public cultural policy seems to play a role in the complex development of a creative economy (Hesmondhalgh, 2005; Pratt, 2005). Nevertheless, this intervention can only provide non-linear impacts on the context. As Allen (1997) suggests in terms of the traditional beliefs in planning, the concept of what policy can or should do needs to be completely revisited.

Feedback is one central element of all the aspects and dynamics of a system. It can be read both as positive or negative feedback mechanisms that regulate the stability of the system. If we look at the cultural infrastructure of an urban context, there are many feedback mechanisms at various levels. For certain elements and commercial aspects the market represents feedback regulating production and consumption. In the cultural economy feedback is also provided by a variety of gatekeepers (Caves, 2000) and mediators (Albertsen and Diken, 2003) which regulate the access to the production facilities, even though the new technologies seem to have weakened the strength of formal gatekeepers providing direct access to audiences and markets.

There are a number of institutional organisations which provide feedback on the creative economy, and public policy and public funding appear to be a strong reinforcement

I felt the big thing we were getting from the Arts Council for the gallery business was their experience of similar ventures, it was almost like a vote of confidence, if they were willing to invest some funding it meant that we are heading down the right track, you never really know, it was reassuring to hear that (Commercial Art Gallery, Northumberland)

Nevertheless, peer-to-peer support and review seem to also be an important structure for the development of innovation. “The learning and innovation capacity of CI businesses depends to a high degree on the wider learning and innovation capacity of these surrounding networks” (O’Connor, 2002, p.9).

5.5  Networks as emergent properties or frameworks for public policy

A large part of the literature relating to clusters and regional economic development suggests the importance of networks (Christopherson, 2002; Coe, 2000; Crewe, 1996; Ettlinger, 2003; Gordon and McCann, 2000; Grabher, 2002; Johns, 2006; Knox et al., 2005; Meusburger, 2000; Mossig, 2004; Neff, 2004; Sturgeon, 2003) and these arguments have been, on various occasions, interconnected with the urban cultural infrastructure through terms such as cultural quarters or cultural milieu. Although in the economic argument networks are important mainly in terms of inter-firm trade, the creative industries seem to rely on networks for other aspects as well. The network structure in the creative and cultural industries seems to provide access to the market, but also to support the exchange of ideas and social interaction that is instrumental to the development of their work. Artists and craft makers rely on the network as a market building strategy and as a marketing strategy in itself. One example, in the context of the North East, is Designed and Made, which promotes designers and makers in the region and helps them to establish a brand and a way to promote their work and their practice.

I think it is really important for the North East to show that this kind of work exists in the region, that there is work here which is pushing the boundaries, and unless you have something like Designed & Made, other regions, and the rest of the UK and the world won’t know about the North East and what is going on here (Designer and Maker, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Another example is Network Artists. Artists use the network to promote their practice and through the open studios Art Tour project they even get direct access to the market to sell their work. Cohesion, the glass artists’ network started by the local authority of Sunderland, has a specific focus on promoting the market for glass art and does so by specifically investing in exhibitions and the participation of artists in art fairs.

Networks are emergent structures which function in terms of support for creative practitioners. Another useful dimension of the network is the support that people get out of it. On one hand it may be moral and psychological support, which as suggested by a jewellery maker, is often a response to the isolated work of the artists / makers.

On the personal level it was really good for me because I was new to the region and I did not know many people so I found it quite a life-line because it got me involved with the artistic community and it made me feel part of something […] I think it is really important because as an artist/designer people work on their own and feeling quite isolated, it makes you feel there is other people out there that you can share experiences with, you get ideas bouncing ideas to people, it just helps” (Designer and Maker, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Creative industries hardly identify themselves with the mainstream business support offered by local agencies. On the contrary, they believe that the best people to provide support or business advice are the people who work in the same sector or have experience in their field; therefore the peer–to-peer support through formal and informal networks seem to be a means to create the personal support infrastructure which a creative practitioner needs.

The most important thing is mixing with other people, you can make do without all the services provided and business advice but the most valuable information comes from other people doing the same things as you who are a year or two years further down the line and can remember how it is like to be in your position but they worked through those problems and they can advise you on how to do things (Jewellery Designer and Maker, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Creative industries tend to rely on different types of networks. Although they would attend events and be within the network of specific formal organisations, they also have a smaller network of peers with which they talk more often and from whom they would seek advice.

It seems that sometimes formal networks are considered useful but impersonal and too structured; they are more like professional development organisations than actual networks. As Kauffman (1993) suggests in reference to biological systems “ecosystems are not totally connected. Typically each species interacts with a subset of the total numbers of other species; hence the system has some extended web structure » (Kauffman 1993, p.255). One element which seems central is the social dimension of the network and the type of bond and experience that holds people together. In this respect, it is often the case that within large formal networks people form smaller and closer social networks.  “Connectivity between individuals or groups is not a constant or uniform relationship, but varies over time, and with the diversity, density, intensity and quality of interactions between human agents” (Mitleton-Kelly, 2003, p.6). As an artist who started a network in the Newcastle area suggested:

I thought the network would grow and become more established, but it remained quite organic and it is made by how much people want to interact with it. It is very organic, in this sense because, as a living organism, sometime it is very active and lots of things go on, some other times it is more quite and slow but this is how it should be because it is organic and it follows the will of people to interact with it (Visual artists network manager)

The emergence of organic networks alongside institutional ones presents some critical challenges. In fact, institutional networks seem to force the social networking, while in the organic networks the social aspects are spontaneous. Furthermore, as an artist suggests, organic networks seem to respond more directly to the need of the people involved in the sector, 

Yes it is very important, because it is artist-led we are making it what we need, we know what we need and we are making it that, coming from us it is going to be more relevant than if it was coming from people in the public sector, who have the best intentions but they do not work in the sector and they do not exactly what we need (Glass artist, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Although networking is often considered part of business practice, people working in the creative industries do not always perceive the need to network as part of their business development. The traditional idea of networking is often considered conventional, and frequently implies mixing with people from very different contexts or business sectors, thus making it seem irrelevant. Conversely, the social dimension, and the trust relationship which can be built (Banks et al., 2000) are perceived as very important for the person and their work. Therefore, networking often takes place informally and as part of normal social interactions, such as sharing common spaces, meeting down at the pub etc.

it was a voluntary organisation, it was founded by two writers and had come from grassroots level, we used to have a meeting once a month, we would have a speaker in and then go down to the pub, it was fantastic, then when Northern Arts decided to have a new full-time officer, a professional came in […] it seems to me that everything now is so much more formal rather than informal, that kind of social network disappeared (Freelance scriptwriter, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

As suggested by O’Connor (2002) “these networks are underpinned by infrastructures of knowledge and expertise which do have formal, institutional dimensions, but equally are embedded in more amorphous social and cultural infrastructures – described as ‘soft infrastructure’, or ‘critical infrastructure’, or ‘creative infrastructure’. These last terms concern those informal networks, those place specific cultural propensities, those ‘structures of feeling’ which are very difficult to grasp, let alone strategically direct, but which nonetheless are crucial to the urban regional ‘innovative milieu’” (p.27).


5.6 Networks and support to the creative economy: new planning for the creative city

Considering the general use of the local networks of local creative industries it could be argued that supporting different networks and communicating through them could provide an effective structure for support. In fact, if we think about the development of some formal and informal networks in the North East, it seems clear that public policy and funding have considered them a strategic way to support and sustain the sector.

Some examples of this would be the Cohesion glass artists network, started by the Sunderland City Council, Designed and Made, started organically by a group of artists and makers and than supported by public funding from the Arts Council of England North East, the Aurora Project (a development network for arts and crafts) supported by Northumberland County Council and European Regional Development Funding, and New Writing North, which started organically, and was then institutionalised and supported by the Arts Council North East, and has become the writing development agency for the North East of England. The public sector sees these networks as a useful support infrastructure for a number of reasons. First, it allows the public sector to delivery information and support to different people by supporting one organisation. It is an efficient way to spread relevant information, organise meetings and seminars and involve the larger sector. Secondly, it creates a critical mass for people coming from the outside and looking for information or deciding whether to start up in a specific sector. It presents the region as a place where creative people are sharing knowledge and are supporting each other. Lastly, it makes public investments more sustainable: instead of investing in one single person the sector can present its investment as sustaining the whole sector. It is an efficient and effective way to promote the regional creative industries to the outside, presenting strength and the potential for further development. However this public support has also caused some undesirable side effects. On one hand it makes the network much more institutionalised and bureaucratic. In fact, if we consider how much interaction, support and participation come from social networks, turning them into public support organisation to deliver specific outcomes can be risky, and can change the nature and quality of the network itself. Another problem is the thinking that the network encompasses the whole sector and all of its actors. Because there is a network of artists or designers, the public sector tends to invest in the network and support it. The risk is that people who do not want to take part in the network, or simply do not fall into the remit of a specific network feel like outsiders, cut off from the possibility of further interaction.


*Dr. Roberta Comunian is Creative Industries Research Associate at the School of Arts, University of Kent. Prior to this, she was lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She holds a European Doctorate title in Network Economy and Knowledge Management. She is interested in: relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural regeneration projects, cultural and creative industries, creativity and competitiveness. She has been visiting researcher at University of Newcastle investigating the relationship between creative industries, cultural policy and public supported art institutions. She has previously undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries within an AHRC Impact Fellowship award at the University of Leeds.


Previous chapters :

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 1

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 2

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 3

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 4

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 5





Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , ,

THE VITALITY INDEX™ Ranking of 35 U.S. Cities Executive Report


The Vitality Index™ is a cultural impact study that models the human experience of the city at its heart.  In practice, it is a ranking and assessment which applies the same level of rigor to qualitative factors as it does quantitative ones.  It brings to life a city’s human strengths as it respects its complexities: a vibrant downtown, an engaged populace, educational opportunity, economic sustainability, good transport, diversity of population and opportunity, and a citizenry that embraces its history and culture.

This VI ranking is composed of data on both quantitative and qualitative factors – through cultural and demographic research, online surveys with citizens and questionnaires to city officials – to analyze and assess each city’s assets and what is distinctive and interesting about it.  Rather than focusing on what doesn’t work, the VI emphasizes what does.  We wanted to know what residents liked and felt was “special” about their community.  The Index serves as a tool to translate residents’ desires into civic action, in the tradition of urban sociologist William Whyte.  Using data garnered from surveys and direct mail, the VI is a unique instrument to gauge civic vitality.  We want to understand the relationship of how people actually live and participate in a city as crucial to its greatness.

Our objective is to reflect a sense of the city from the perspective of the people who live there, the “inner tourists” who are the first and most important actors in any city’s present and future.  Their commitment, loyalty, and participation in all aspects of urban living hold the key to a city’s future sustainability.  Their appreciation or dissatisfaction with their city will greatly determine the level of interest or attraction the city holds for visitors looking for places to travel and for businesses looking to invest.


Small Things Matter: These are the experiences that create the texture of daily life and come to form the feel of the city.  We wanted to know more about how people really used their city.  We added to our online survey measuring what people liked and what they thought would attract people to their city an open ended question:  What are your three favorite places and why? in order to hear from them directly about where they go, what they do, and what they value in their city.

Bottom Up:  We looked for people-oriented projects and initiatives that were embraced by city government, i.e. plans to revitalize downtown growth and density, fund public art, improve public transportation, build on neighborhood initiatives, support community aspirations, or sometimes where citizens managed to do it themselves.

“Fayetteville Street:  Reborn from a dead pedestrian mall just a few years ago.”  (Raleigh)  “Guadalupe River Park, with a great potential to connect our city to perhaps the only natural asset in our urban area.”  (San Jose)  “…once a shopping area for the well to do, the area [NE Columbus] fell into disrepair in the ‘90s and has been ‘repurposed’ by various different immigrant communities.  Great food, great cross-cultural experiences.  (Columbus)

Public Access:  It is not surprising that where there are interesting things to do in a city, e.g. rivers, parks, lively neighborhoods, arts activities and events, people want access  to them.  Here we valued – because participants did – both the quality of the public spaces and events, and the public’s access to them.

“Olympic Sculpture Park-a beautiful marriage of nature and art, at a huge scale, right on our most beautiful natural asset, the waterfront!”  (Seattle)  “I’d go to a lot more events there [Ohio Theatre] if the rest of downtown weren’t so desolate at night.”  (Columbus)  “Miami Design District/Wynwood since these areas provide great support an accessibility for arts and culture)  (Miami)  “Founder’s Hall – a great gathering space”  (Philadelphia)  “lakefront-it’s uniquely ours’  (Chicago)

Parks, Public Spaces, Waterfronts:  These need their own category because in nearly every city, residents in 27 of the 35 cities we studied, or 77%, rate them second only to the arts in what they like most about their city.  Parks are particularly important as a way to relax yet still be around people in the midst of the city.  For example:

“Springwater Trail [and] Mt. Tabor Park.  Why?  Fairly distinctive places, lots of energy due to lots of people.”  (Portland)  “Guthrie/riverfront, both the cultural opportunities and the beauty” (Minneapolis)  “public parks because of there are wonderful opportunities for recreation”  (Phoenix)  “Central Park for giving New Yorkers a backyard to play in”  (New York City)  “Wade Oval: especially “parade the circle” event, location of Ingenuity Festival”  (Cleveland)

Cultural institutions: All the cities we studied are rich in cultural resources, which citizens value.  We noted a tendency for older residents to value institutional culture more than younger ones who valued outdoor assets for recreation, art galleries, and those activities that can sometimes include both such as art walks.

Desire for Connection/Street Life:  It sounds like an oversimplification but needs stating:  People generally like to be with each other and want places where they can get together, whether public plazas, streets, cafes, restaurants, art festivals, etc.  They find ways to create community even when cities do not make that easy.  Where good public transportation is not readily available they are willing to “drive to walk” in parks or livelier neighborhoods than their own.  We noted especially when residents commented that the city had made attempts to help them make connections either with better transportation like the new streetcar in Atlanta or by joining up cultural assets like the River Walk in San Antonio or the Plaza District in Oklahoma City.

“Downtown cultural district; very vibrant and affordable”  (Pittsburgh)  “The Central West End and the Delmar Loop are two great neighborhoods and remind me of what downtown could become”  (St Louis)  “Echo Park, Silver Lake, Downtown.  They feel like actual neighborhoods, with places I like to go and people I know or might want to know.”  (Los Angeles)

Sense of Place:  We noted where residents showed particular enthusiasm for their city, its assets, and its story, e.g.  Jacksonville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Detroit.  They note their history but also how their cities maintain a feeling of authenticity:

“independent local restaurants” as opposed to chains (Indianapolis), “small local businesses” (Riverside, Jacksonville), “no other neighborhood better tells the story of this city” (Old North St. Louis),  “great market and great place to see neighbors and other Detroiters” (Eastern Market, Detroit)  “there are so many little [independent] coffee shops, each with their own ambience, regulars and charm” (Minneapolis)  “Regent Square – variety of shops and restaurants that attract people but does not lose its neighborhood feel”  (Pittsburgh)  “Downtown…the growth is exciting.”  (Tulsa)  “Silverlake sunset junction area for its neighborhood feel and an active commercial area that has remained independent and lively”  (Los Angeles)

Lively Neighborhoods and Rubbing Shoulders:  Respondents placed a strong emphasis on lively and authentic neighborhoods, those that had the feel of a “real city.”  They are willing to drive distances to reach them for their energy and variety of people.  These are sometimes designated art districts but also places where the arts have emerged spontaneously bringing with them restaurants, bars etc.  Respondents note the energy and diversity they find there in people and activities:

“It’s great to see more activity and people living downtown.” (Kansas City)  “So much going on steps from my home.” (Downtown, Memphis)  “Midtown Market…it helped integrate the many cultures who live, work, and enjoy that part of town.” (Minneapolis)  “Harvard Square for the access to free lectures and other opportunities to learn.”  (Boston/Cambridge)

“Downtown (anywhere) because it is walkable and because food and entertainment are easily accessible.”  (Raleigh)  “Capitol Hill-It feels urban, there are people walking at night, businesses are open, it is lively.”  (Seattle)  “Sugarhouse has a happening local scene although it has diminished since a large block was torn down”  (Salt Lake City)  “Cherry Street-unique bars and restaurants, great farmer’s market in the summer”  (Tulsa)  “Common Market-sense of community among patrons”  (Charlotte)

Joint Cultural/Community Projects:  This rated high from respondents in about half the cities we studied.  It seemed surprising at first that what seemed like the most elusive and complex choice to achieve for “what would make your city better” was so popular.   This could mean that citizens believe that a “joined-up” approach would better serve the city as a whole because they have seen such projects already at work or that they share a sense that partnerships provide better benefits as a whole.  Perhaps cultural institutions might strive to be more visible in their communities or share resources with other non-profits in innovative and creative ways.

“LACMA because it is the people’s museum, although sometimes they forget.”  (Los Angeles)  “Harwelden Mansion, a great English gothic mansion near downtown, now home to the Arts and Humanities of Tulsa”  (Tulsa)  (Pinball Hall of Fame, one of the largest collections of functioning pinball machines in the world.  It’s a non-profit that gives most of its proceeds to charity”  (Las Vegas)  “Mint Museum Uptown – cultural activities, free concerts, interesting collection of exhibits, good for tourists”  (Charlotte)

It’s Not About the Buildings:  People do comment on good architecture in their cities but not nearly as much as we might expect.  Their overwhelming connection is to natural assets where they are in abundance (Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Portland, for example) and to public spaces where they can meet up, e.g. parks, or enjoy the feel of urban density, lively neighborhoods.  When they do make mention of buildings, those places primarily house the arts.

The Unexpected:  Great cities have a sense of the unexpected.  Great cities have a sense of the unexpected. People voice their pleasure at finding the new and undiscovered: a great bakery or cafe, a club. art gallery, or an exciting neighborhood that seems to be the result of spontaneous combustion. These “events” need room to happen.

“Ludivine because they integrate local farmers into all of their food and no one would expect it to be in OKC.” —Oklahoma City

“Cherokee Street – an unstable coalition of Mexican immigrants, anarchists, and artists that has managed to revive a once forgotten commercial strip.”—St. Louis

“Area Fifteen – An old warehouse that has been converted to an arts and small business incubator.” —Charlotte

“…the Beat Coffeehouse which is an independent cafe that recently opened…” —Las Vegas

“Big Truck Tacos – best burrito in the city, and open late.” —Oklahoma City



Good Messiness at The Top  

The vitality of a creative city distinguishes it from just any urban environment.  The exemplar creative city is full of energy, opportunities and interesting people combined with a bit of edginess.  That creative tension, which is the result of an entrepreneurial spirit combined with restless talent wanting the city to be more remarkable or provide better outlets for their ideas and energy equals what we call “good messiness.”  It is the energy we find in exciting places that is difficult to define but immediately felt.  (And just as readily felt when it isn’t there.)

Good messiness depends, however, on many of the factors in the quantitative side of this index.  Safe streets and economic stability, a sound infrastructure of good transportation, education, and healthcare all make it possible to have good messiness and not bad.  This is the environment in which new ideas and businesses, culture and commerce can thrive.

It is not surprising then that the cities that ranked high did so.  The assets of New York, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles are well established both economically and culturally.  They are in flux, which is a good thing, buoyed by changing economic forces and migrations of residents in and out of the city, leading to a kind of instability that is creative and dynamic.  They are cities with a rich past and a powerful present.  But no city can assume that its present will be its future without attention to many of the factors we assessed in this ranking.


All cities have something wonderful about them.  But great cities big or small are open to ideas from anywhere.  They make room for spontaneity.  They are receptive to the best talents wherever those may come from, which in turn fosters creativity and innovation.  When they are on the rise, tradition and new ideas interact.  We want to highlight some of the cities that caught our attention.

  • Detroit : a big city diminished by economic hardship now appears to be reinventing itself as one of the most interesting urban experiments in the country.
  • New Orleans, Memphis : neighborhoods!  These cities are full of diversity, nightlife, and interesting neighborhoods.  They allow for spontaneity.  The enthusiasm of their residents grabs you.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh : these places are strong in cultural institutions and heritage.  How they continue to maintain a vibrant edge will be worth watching.
  • Charlotte, Raleigh : residents seem fine as they are, but we detect from respondents a sense that their cities may not have quite caught up to the aspirations of their citizens.  They can do more, particularly as their economies, demographics, and aspirations are rapidly changing.
  • Minneapolis, Portland : cities are about possibility.  Those that invest in theme parks, shopping malls, stadiums and convention centers are foreclosing possibilities not creating them.  Respondents in these cities cite the wonderful natural resources, good access to them, and a cultural life happening at street level.  You get the feeling that Minneapolis and Portland are attentive to what its residents want from their city.



It is our hope that the Vitality Index™ ranking will give guidance to cities to continue to support programs and policies that are clearly – and verifiably – enriching the lives of their citizens in economic and cultural ways and also give them pause about pursuing policies that don’t or won’t.  The real value of the VI is in its usefulness as a means of improving the quality of life for the residents of the city by staying in touch with their desires and aspirations.

The Creative Cities approach, with the help of the VI, is customized to cities’ needs and requirements.  It provides measurements and analysis that can also serve as a persuasive means of moving ideas and vision into the public realm of policy and responsible decision-making because what is missing in most analyses is crucial:  the intentions and values of the community.

Fully activated, it is divided into three levels:

  • gathering of data such as demographics, trends, costs and measures of typical and creative infrastructure modeled to produce a ranking that benchmarks the city against competitor cities;
  • surveys and focus groups with residents and other stakeholders that examine people’s habits, how they actually live their lives, where they go, what they do, their concerns, and their aspirations.  This provides additional analysis, refined recommendations, risks and opportunities, and essential indicators of what people want and care about;
  • high-level rigorous analysis from a cultural point of view.



The VI can help to ensure that the planned design of an area makes a positive contribution to the community and the city by taking into account – and valuing – what isn’t usually considered.  With this information, a city can pose a question about a goal or project.  If a city wishes to attract business by enhancing its business climate or its amenities, by altering its tax and zoning laws, etc., those values can be reflected in the factors the VI chooses to review and the analysis can point to the city’s objectives.

Another city might want to attract cultural tourism as a boon to economic regeneration and sustainability.  How art and cultural activities contribute to the current state of the city and how they might be enhanced would certainly be a major priority of the analysis.  In both cases, the cultural assessment evaluates the information from the VI on the basis of the project goals and the values the city thinks it has or wishes to enhance or attain.  It is an analysis that has the ability to change with increasingly complex goals or ones that change radically.

Or perhaps the city’s goals are less clear or its problems more profound.  For cities under more serious stress, changing zoning laws or building a cultural center will not be enough to make a dramatic difference in their future.  Even large infusions of cash won’t matter if they still lack that vitality, energy or “good messiness” that are critical to a city’s economic and cultural viability.  Here, the VI can examine what is already working and why, e.g. its street life, the marketplace, and its complex mix of people.   Identifying what is specific and interesting to the area is a first step in building confidence among residents and attracting commercial investment.

Finding answers to what seem intractable problems requires an analysis and understanding of a city’s culture from the bottom up and a focus for planning, design and economic regeneration rooted in a city’s uniqueness.


The Vitality Index™ is produced using a mixed methodological approach.  It begins with quantitative factors including trends, costs, services, and measures of creative infrastructure.  It then combines key informant insights and survey data.  Government and civic leaders in a variety of positions responded to open-ended survey questions to offer judgments on the key attributes and liabilities of their cities, with attention paid to cultural and athletic attractions, night life, street life, educational opportunities, café society, and general creative dynamism.  At the same time, a survey was administered to several thousand individuals in the rated cities of the index to gain anonymous feedback on similar topics. The two approaches, together, offer both quantitative rigor and qualitative subtlety in our ability to actually produce a rating for each city, while allowing us the opportunity to offer disquisitive insights into specific attractions.



We are a global team of the most dynamic and experienced practitioners in culture and urban planning, market and financial analysis, architecture, transportation and the creative industries.  We believe that for cities, large or small, to be brilliant, they must use all their resources: economic, political, and most of all, cultural.  There is a risk of failure in neglecting the creative and cultural potential in urban projects and city life.  The successful project is one that has understood the history the situation, and the market, and engenders goodwill in as many people as possible.


Linda Lees, PhD. Director

Creative Cities International, LLC /


You can also download the pdf version of The Vitality Index™ here and here and in our box ressources.

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Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 5

We are honoured and deligheted to publish Dr Roberta Comunian’s* last article engaging with the current research and debate about the creative city and the importance of cultural infrastructure in contemporary cities. It argues that much of the focus has been around the investment of cities in specific regeneration projects or flagship developments rather than addressing the nature of the infrastructures, networks and agents engaging in the city’s cultural development. The complexity theory and its associated principles can provide a new understanding of the connection between the urban space and the systems of local cultural production and consumption. Drawing on interviews with creative practitioners in the North East region of England, the paper argues that the cultural development of a city is a complex adaptive system. This finding has implication both for policy makers and academic research. It emphases the importance of micro-interactions and network between creative practitioners, the publicly supported cultural sector and the cultural infrastructure of the city.

5 The principles of complexity within an urban cultural system[i]

5.1 Urban cultural economy: spaces of transition

In the general literature about the creative city and urban regeneration there is always a strong element of change, a movement from the industrial to the post-industrial, flagship events or buildings designed to enable cities to turn grey pages of the past into bright futures. Nevertheless, very little attention is given to the phase of transition and the passage between the old and the new.  It can be argued that this is because there is in fact no such turning point, and the evolution of events and interaction in the urban cultural landscape evolves slowly, hardly ever experiencing a distinct turning point. In this respect, complexity theory uses very interesting terminology to describe how complex systems experience change. A system changes usually because some of the elements of the system create small changes that push the system « far-from-equilibrium”: “for a system to be innovative, creative, and changeable it must be driven far from equilibrium where it can make use of disorder, irregularity, and difference as essential elements in the process of change (Stacey, 1995, p.490). If we read the complex history of the decline of the industrial economy in our cities and the way in which certain cities have been developing within cultural and creative economies, it can be interpreted as the development of a new order coming from the existing conditions created by the system. Nevertheless, it is often the event, such as the European Capital of Culture or a specific investment, such as a new flagship museum, that is the main catalyst, and therefore the reason for the changes taking place. Many of the explanations and motivations for change are not sought for in the contexts of the way local actors experience transition or change, but instead change is somehow considered to be already there. Another interesting idiom found in complexity literature is the idea of « space of possibilities ». Again, none of the literature which looks at ‘creative cities’ and ‘urban regeneration’ consider the real spectrum of possibilities within an evolving urban context, and the majority of case studies presented in the literature are positive examples and good practice, which hardly take into consideration possibilities for a different development and the role of failure.

We are still in the post 2008 cultural capital bid, so it is a bit of time for reconsideration, reflection at the moment and I do not know how it will plan out, but I think it was good that we did not get 2008 in order to see what is the most sustainable, longer term cultural infrastructure and expectation for the region; we got a problematic balance in terms of the fact  that Culture 10 programme is much about big events and tourism development but what risks getting lost is some really good quality art programming and cutting edge in terms of the content. (Manager, Voluntary Sector Visual Art Organisation, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

 The exploration of the space of possibilities can be read at different levels. At the city level, it can be argued that different cities have seen in the support and development of culture economies and infrastructure the exploration of new possibilities and solutions for their competitiveness and development. This is true if we compare different urban strategies and strategic plans. It seems also quite important to understand to what extent the post-industrial decline, the crisis derived from it and its social implications have opened different spaces – from physical empty buildings to space for new organisations, such as regional development agencies or local trusts, to grow – for cities to think about their future.  This is explained by a local policy maker in the context of Newcastle-Gateshead referring to the political will of the council to bring about change in the city

the drive was very much from the public sector, particularly Gateshead Council, them to have the ambition and guts to say this is a region which has suffered for hundreds of years of decline, declining industry, mining, shipbuilding, high unemployment, not a lot going for itself, they have looked at alternative ways to reinvigorate the city (Public Sector Officer, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

But at the same time as we can consider the exploration of new possibilities at the city level, it seems to work at the individual level as well, where gaps and constraints result in different choices and innovative thinking

 I decided I did want to carry on being an artist […] I just realised that there was a very big gap in Newcastle for an artist run gallery, a project that came from an artist project so that became my focus […] it was quite strategic in terms of my own career as an artist because I felt quite invisible in the North East as an artist (Visual artists, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Allen (1997) talks about “a collective, spatial response to changing conditions” (p.6). In this respect it is easy to recall that the growing importance of culture and cultural economies has been a social and spatial response to the decline of the traditional industry. Even spatially in the city context the old industrial warehouses have been the first spaces to be taken over by artists and new creative practitioners in order to develop their practice (Zukin, 1985). This has occurred in Newcastle-Gateshead in the areas of Grainger Town where derelict buildings have been converted into office space for media industries and in the Ouseburn Valley area where artists have clustered around an old warehouse building, 36 Lime Street. As a photographer suggests in the context of Newcastle-Gateshead

I think people underestimate the North East culture, I think it is very deep-rooted in various areas like the industry that used to be here in the area, things like shipyard and mining and I think the lack of that now has left a bit of a void and some of the art works have helped to fill in that gap (Photographer, Northumberland)

5.2 Non-linearity, feedback and adaptation and co-evolution

Although in the literature there is a strong pressure towards homologation and to see the cultural development of a city as a positive event in which there is wide consensus, in fact complex systems do not interact on the basis of consensus and cause-effect developments, but of non-linearity, which is often what can be seen in the cultural development of cities. The fact that interactions are not regulated from above but are depending of internal and external feed-back of the system, and its connectivity and adaptive capacity, implies that making predictive assumptions about outcomes and trends, can no longer be given for granted (Holland, 1995). It also means that “behaviour patterns can emerge without being intended and in fact often emerge contrary to intention, producing unexpected and counter intuitive outcomes” (Stacey, 1995, p. 480).

 There is often an assumption that public policy and investment act in a direct causal way, and have a straightforward effect on the matter addressed. On the contrary, listening to cultural agents, creative industries and agencies of the city there is great room for non-linear interaction, also influenced by processes of adaptation and feedback between agents. Even large investments such as the establishment of a new contemporary art gallery which could be addressed as an injection having direct impact on local cultural economies sometimes do not provide a direct connection with local artists or development of creative industries.

I think Baltic is kind of this great resource that we’ve got, but it’s not, it’s kind of not functioning regionally; artists aren’t trying a connection with Baltic, and Baltic’s not really helping artists in the region. (Director, commercial art gallery).

In the development of the Baltic, the contemporary art gallery in Gateshead, a specific focus has been on recognising the importance of building audiences and involving the local community in contemporary art. Nevertheless, as complexity theory suggests, microscopic interactions can result in new and different possible structure at the level of the whole. So if we look at the outreach and participation programme of a museum or a gallery, we could certainly argue that it could have a role in building an audience for arts events and for the art market – ultimately having an impact also on local artists. A possible non-linear effect of the system convergence towards arts and culture in the North East region through public investment and development of private commercial galleries can be seen in the impact of the Own Art scheme. The North East region of England accounted for 23%[ii] of the national sales of contemporary art supported by this scheme. One explanation for this concentration of sales is the stimulation of an art-buying market through the awareness of art created by the investment in this region. The growth in art sales can also function as positive feedback to the system as a whole. However, it is impossible to attribute this effect to one single element or incident, but it needs to be linked to a combination of many elements and their interaction: “nonlinear feedback system operates at the edge of instability, therefore, agents in that system cannot intend the long-term outcomes of their actions. Instead, those long-term outcomes emerge from the detailed interactions between the agents” (Stacey, 1995, p. 483).

The same non-linear effects can be seen in the growth of the creative industries sector in the region. Although it could be interpreted as an effect of the region’s investment in culture, it needs to be further conceptualised not in the attraction of talents and international companies[iii], but in the regional supportive environment and its grassroots cultural development. The non-linearity of the regeneration process has been described elsewhere: “these developments were underpinned not by economic imperatives, but by a will and determination on the part of local arts activists and politicians to provide the area with the cultural facilities that it deserved. It may well be the case that the cultural imperative is the crucial ingredient here” (Bailey et al., 2004, p. 61). The possibility to support and implement creative economies without a direct investment, but with indirect support from audiences and the market, through advocacy and participation is further presented by a designer:

from the public sector perspective I think that’s were they should be putting the main effort in educating people, helping people understand, highlighting, showcasing and that would do more for the design business than any grant that they give out, grants just increase the number of businesses while this would increase the number of contracts available and the industry would expand consequently (Designer, Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Part of the public strategy behind the development of the cultural infrastructure of Newcastle-Gateshead has been in the long-term embedded approach to culture and in the focus on participation and access. This kind of policy seems to respond to a need for the agents of the system to co-evolve, to change within a changing environment, and to reciprocally influence each other. The evolution of one domain or entity is partially dependent on the evolution of other related domains or entities (Kauffman 1993). It is not just simple adaptation; it is an evolution which changes the agents and changes the environment. This is suggested by the following description of the change which occurred in the cultural landscape of Newcastle-Gateshead “these developments succeeded precisely because the local people took ownership of them, not as exclusive symbols of wealth but as sources of local pride that regenerated a local source of identity as much as they did the local economy” (Bailey et al., 2004, p.61). The co-evolution is also suggested by the long-term implementation of the cultural investments which started in the early 90s to culminate in 2004 with the opening of The Sage Gateshead but which have been also implemented through Culture10, a 10-year support programme of festivals and events running until 2010.

you see places like The Sage Gateshead, people are making hard business decisions, obviously thinking that it is worth investing in it and they would not be doing it if there was not a market, it is fantastic for the city and the knock-on effect is that you get smaller people following, it is a sort of piggyback effect and hopefully it is gathering momentum (Director, Commercial art gallery).

[i] The use of complexity theory and its principles in the present article does not aim to provide a simplified overview on the long evolving literature on the subject, which the author herself is still investigating and exploring. Nevertheless, referring to this framework of analysis aims to introduce a new critical approach to the study of creative economies, which is better informed of the wider debate on the complexity of urban and economic interactions and avoid the temptation to established simple causal links between a city economic development and its cultural infrastructure.

[ii] Own Art is a loan scheme developed in UK by the Arts Council. It allows a 0% loan for buyers of contemporary art in different commercial galleries associated to the scheme. Almost a quarter of all loans (23%) were made by galleries in the North East region, with the highest percent of sell achieved in any other region.

[iii] This approach which is typical of large American cities studied by Florida is probably not part of a European perspective of the creative economy if we exclude few European capital cities (see Gibbon, 2005 and Nathan, 2005).


*Dr. Roberta Comunian is Creative Industries Research Associate at the School of Arts, University of Kent. Prior to this, she was lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She holds a European Doctorate title in Network Economy and Knowledge Management. She is interested in: relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural regeneration projects, cultural and creative industries, creativity and competitiveness. She has been visiting researcher at University of Newcastle investigating the relationship between creative industries, cultural policy and public supported art institutions. She has previously undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries within an AHRC Impact Fellowship award at the University of Leeds.


Previous chapters :

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 1

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 2

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 3

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 4

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, Ressources, , , , , ,

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 4

We are honoured and deligheted to publish Dr Roberta Comunian’s* last article engaging with the current research and debate about the creative city and the importance of cultural infrastructure in contemporary cities. It argues that much of the focus has been around the investment of cities in specific regeneration projects or flagship developments rather than addressing the nature of the infrastructures, networks and agents engaging in the city’s cultural development. The complexity theory and its associated principles can provide a new understanding of the connection between the urban space and the systems of local cultural production and consumption. Drawing on interviews with creative practitioners in the North East region of England, the paper argues that the cultural development of a city is a complex adaptive system. This finding has implication both for policy makers and academic research. It emphases the importance of micro-interactions and network between creative practitioners, the publicly supported cultural sector and the cultural infrastructure of the city.

3. The creative and cultural economy of the city as a complex system

The creative city model, as we have highlighted, has been used as an instrumental approach to developing cultural and creative economies in different urban contexts. Nevertheless, the limitations of this approach are clear in terms of sustainability, social inclusion and development of local grassroots cultural economies. It is important to see how support and cultural policy should therefore be developed without imposing strategies and characteristics which are extraneous to the local environment (Nathan, 2005), instead supporting and developing local assets and actors to enable them to build a sustainable cultural economy.

Much of the economic literature relating to creative industries and regional economic development mentions the importance of networks and co-location in order to build a vibrant economy (Coe, 2001; Coe, 2000; Gibson, 2003; Kong, 2005; Lange, 2005; Scott, 2004; Turok, 2003). The creative industries sector is comprised of small and medium size companies, and sole trading is typical. It is therefore easy to see how networking can have a role and an impact in the development of economic growth and support for the sector.

When investigating the potentials of the creative city, it is not useful to establish which kind of investment and assets are needed if we do not first understand how creative and cultural practitioners work, and what kind of agencies they require for their practices. It is important to investigate how culturepreneurs “act in order to build up networks, to arrange meetings, and to establish urban laboratories where new products can be tested and where experience and knowledge may be shared” (Lange, 2005, p.82).

Therefore, it is essential to look at the development of local creative and cultural economies, adopting a new approach. In this respect complexity theory can offer useful insight into the cultural dynamics of the city (Allen, 1997; Batty, 2005), particularly as it examines the importance of a bottom-up approach where the determinants of the cultural development of the city do not depend only on the political choices of the leaders, but on the complex network of relations which the cultural agents and practitioners of the city build and develop. In this respect, Florida’s (2002) study of the creative class  suggests an interesting correlation of the relationship between cultural factors and the development of creative economies, but the way in which these cultural factors can be implemented or stimulated has often been misinterpreted.

As many authors (Finch and Orillard, 2005; Mitleton-Kelly, 2006) point out, complexity theory is not a single unified theory, but has been developed through the study of complex systems in different contexts, such as biology, chemistry, computer simulation, mathematics and organisational science. Nevertheless, part of this corpus of study has focused on human systems, and suggests that complex social systems (such as an urban environment) share features with other complex systems, and are able to create new order and innovate. Complexity theory offers some useful suggestions regarding the principles which guide the evolution and development of complex systems, and how cultural factors and agents interact, respond and evolve in different ways in specific contexts. More recently, Martin and Sunley (2007) have investigated the potential and the challenges of using complexity theory in economic geography. The way in which the principles[i] developed within the context of complexity theory can be applied to the social and economic dynamics of a city or region has been questioned, and as suggested by Green (1999), even though we can have snapshots of the complexity of a system and its complex behaviour, it is more difficult to address its evolutionary nature.

Using the framework developed by Green (Green, 1999) the second part of the paper seeks to question how the cultural economy of a city needs be studied as a complex co-evolving system (CCES), meaning that creativity and the cultural aspects of the urban context do not just adapt to changes in the environment (such as a specific policy or a large investment) but they also influence and affect that specific context. “The process is not unilateral but reciprocal or co-evolutionary. CCES have a set of interrelated characteristics that influence each other and enable them to create new order” (Mitleton-Kelly, 2006, p. 225).  In order to understand in which terms the cultural development of a city should be analysed through the lens of a complexity approach, we draw upon the case study of Newcastle-Gateshead and interviews carried out with cultural and creative practitioners of the North East region of England[ii].

4. Methodology and case study

The results presented in the following section were gathered over two years of research carried out in Newcastle-Gateshead and the North East region of England between 2004 and 2006. The project included 136 interviews with local creative practitioners in the region and people working in the cultural sector not only in the private but also in the public and not for profit sector. The central focus of the research was on the importance of place and networks in the creative economy, using both qualitative interviews and social network analysis.

The context of Newcastle-Gateshead and the North East represent a somewhat challenging case study for research into the development of local creative and cultural industries. On one hand, the region’s growing attention towards this sector is part of a long-term regeneration commitment, and on the other, Newcastle-Gateshead, unlike many of the famous case studies addressed by the literature, missed the cultural summit and missed the opportunity to be European Capital of Culture 2008 in favour of Liverpool.

The region’s focus on cultural investment began in the early nineties when the region attracted the Year of Visual Arts in 1996. The ability of some regional actors (lead by Northern Arts, now the Arts Council North East) to attract large public investments to the region in order to revitalise the local economy and develop local participation in arts activities is widely acknowledged (Bailey et al., 2004). These investments enabled the creation of large publicly funded cultural infrastructures, not only in contemporary art (The Baltic) and music (The Sage Gateshead) but also in theatres (refurbishments of the Northern Stage, Theatre Royal and Live Theatre), crafts (National Glass Centre, expansion of the Shipley Gallery), literature (Seven Stories), dance (Dance City) and other important events. Nevertheless, the question of whether and to what extent public sector infrastructure has benefited and boosted the local creative economy is not a simple one to address. The region, and specifically Newcastle-Gateshead have definitely benefited from a new image as a ‘creative city’[iii], but local development followed different patterns when the Capital of Culture event was no longer to take place in the city and new motivation and reasons to keep the city’s commitment to its cultural investments needed to be found.

At the beginning of the 2000’s, the RDA, local authorities and support agencies started to look at the potential economic impact of the creative economy locally and regionally, with a strong commitment to the idea of ‘cultural quarters’ as a hub of the city. At the marketing and promotional level, a first formulation of the ‘cultural quarters’ map of the city was developed by Newcastle-Gateshead Initiative (NGI), the city destination agency. In this first presentation 5 cultural quarters[iv] where included: the Quayside, Grainger Town, the Haymarket, Chinatown and Jesmond. The interpretation of what a ‘cultural quarter’ is was based mainly on the consumption of culture either through the presence of large cultural institutions or trendy shops. In this classification, no mention was made of the Ouseburn Valley, the largest co-location of artists and creative practitioners in the area.  Since 2002-3, a second ‘cultural quarter’ strategy has been led by the University of Newcastle, which developed a new master plan and major refurbishment initiative for its cultural facilities, but also addresses the role of cultural production (specifically through the Culture Lab and the Northern Writer’s Centre).  Additionally, investments in the Ouseburn Valley as the cultural production heart of the city, on the opposite side of the shiny Quayside buildings, started taking place.

More recently, a wider focus has been developed, based not on clusters, but networks. Specifically, various networks and infrastructures have been put in place to address the needs of the various creative sub-sectors. Agencies like Codeworks (for media industries), Northern Film and Media (for the moving image sector) or New Writing North (for writers) and others have been in charge of developing schemes and training to boost the local creative economy.

In the following paragraphs, we use the material collected through interviews and ethnographic research to address how the cultural and creative development of a city should be read from a complexity perspective. In particular, within this complexity perspective, we try to present a system which interacts at a variety of levels and the different ways in which changes and structures are experienced and understood by people acting at different levels in the system, particularly practitioners and policy makers.

[i]  For an useful overview on the principles of complexity theory see Martin and Sunley (2007) p. 6.

[ii] The field work undertaken for the present research included 136 semi-structured interviews with people working in the creative and cultural industries (within the private and the public and not for profit sector) in the North-East region of England. Interviews took place between November 2005 and April 2006. Furthermore, social network analysis has been used to test the role of networks and infrastructures.

[iii] Newsweek Atlantic Edition on 2nd September 2002 wrote “Newcastle-Gateshead listed as one of the world’s eight most creative city”.

[iv] The information are present on-line and include a map of the city cultural quarters  (accessed on 5 January 2008)


*Dr. Roberta Comunian is Creative Industries Research Associate at the School of Arts, University of Kent. Prior to this, she was lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She holds a European Doctorate title in Network Economy and Knowledge Management. She is interested in: relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural regeneration projects, cultural and creative industries, creativity and competitiveness. She has been visiting researcher at University of Newcastle investigating the relationship between creative industries, cultural policy and public supported art institutions. She has previously undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries within an AHRC Impact Fellowship award at the University of Leeds.


Previous chapters :

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 1

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 2

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 3

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , ,

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 3

We are honoured and deligheted to publish Dr Roberta Comunian’s* last article engaging with the current research and debate about the creative city and the importance of cultural infrastructure in contemporary cities. It argues that much of the focus has been around the investment of cities in specific regeneration projects or flagship developments rather than addressing the nature of the infrastructures, networks and agents engaging in the city’s cultural development. The complexity theory and its associated principles can provide a new understanding of the connection between the urban space and the systems of local cultural production and consumption. Drawing on interviews with creative practitioners in the North East region of England, the paper argues that the cultural development of a city is a complex adaptive system. This finding has implication both for policy makers and academic research. It emphases the importance of micro-interactions and network between creative practitioners, the publicly supported cultural sector and the cultural infrastructure of the city.

2.2 The contradiction of a global creative city and the importance of local assets

Although the concept of the creative city appears to be a very attractive and sophisticated policy instrument, few people have considered its global reach and local limits. As with many fuzzy concepts (Markusen, 2003) and global branding exercises (Jensen, 2005; Kearns and Philo, 1993), it can be seen as another globalised brand which has been accepted and adopted without critical debate or intervention. In particular, Europe has been very receptive to the concept (Florida and Tinagli, 2004), although previous research adopting a more embedded approach to the creative city (Bianchini and Landry, 1995; Landry, 2000) did not enjoy the same success. However, Montgomery (2005) points out that the creative cities listed by Florida (especially in the European analysis) often do not reflect the reality of the creative economy[i], and argues that “the only indicator that matters is the strength of a city’s creative economy, measured in the number of businesses and employees, and by the wealth they produce” (Montgomery, 2005, p. 339). As Gibbon (2005) suggests, even though Florida’s theory might be valid for the American context, this does not imply that a similar correlation can be found in British and European cities.

According to Bailey et al (2004), Florida’s creative class is far from promoting the kind of local culture and identity that is central to many successful urban regeneration projects. They argue that this paradigm promotes a globalised culture that can cause a location to become anonymous by virtue of its prescribed ‘diversity’: “the city allows you to modulate the experience: to choose the mix, to turn the intensity level up and down as desired and to have a hand in creating the experience rather than merely consuming it” (Florida, 2002, p. 232). On the contrary, successful urban regeneration projects are, according to the authors, those implying a strong involvement of the pre-existing community and local identity. In these terms, culturally based urban regeneration processes should not aim towards a multicultural and multi-identity town, offering the widest choice of cultural opportunities for the creative class. Instead, it should recover a sense of place, history and belonging. This vision is almost in antithesis with the decline of the identity and community links typical of Florida’s globalised city model. Furthermore, an unconditional and uncritical acceptance of this approach tends to underestimate the need for balance between the attraction of “foreign” talent and the development of local talent. In this respect, if the focus is the attraction of a highly mobile creative class, cities would have to continuously compete for the retention of those highly skilled people with other fast-growing creative metropolises. Furthermore, as some authors suggest with reference to the development of creative economies and creative clusters, the grassroots development of creative industries can provide a long-term view: “there is a growing awareness that the development of a viable indigenous sector is crucial to providing a long-term basis for employment in the industry.” (Coe, 2000, p. 392)

Moreover, this could lead to the possibility of many investments and projects attracting the creative class towards a city or town causing the progressive exclusion of local artists. This phenomenon could cause processes of gentrification and segregation, resulting in the formation of a dualistic development model. In particular, Zukin (1995; 1985), takes a critical standpoint with regard to urban regeneration processes based on culture. She claims that the goals of these interventions are mostly speculative and tend to involve arts and culture as a simple add-on, merely instrumental to raising the property value. In particular, Zukin reports the typical effect of the fast rise of the economic value of certain regenerated areas. This phenomenon can cause the artists who originally generated the attraction to be forced out of the regenerated area due to rising property values.

In their ideal of the creative city, many policy makers have forgotten to analyse the social problems and inequalities that are caused by excessive competition for the attraction of talent at the expense of the development of local communities (Brooks, 2000). Theoretically, there is no guarantee that investing in the attraction of “outside” talents produces better long term results than investing in the “empowerment” and consolidation of local talent. However, with an inward looking approach there is a risk of being trapped in defensive and self-comforting localism, rather than enhancing exchanges and interactions with other similar locations.

Bell and Jayne (2003) consider the role of design and design-led urban regeneration, and critically acknowledge that although some interesting case studies could be addressed, like the one regarding Barcelona or Glasgow, there is always a limit in practice. While there is often success in the re-imaging of the city and creation of levels of business involvement, and in terms of consumption, there is no evidence that the involvement of members of the community, or their view of the city or how design affects their life is being taken into consideration. In this respect, the potential in terms of social impact and social inclusion, often quoted as being one of the specific outcomes of these investments, is not so clear. The relation between creative economy and urban regeneration remains still an assumption that needs to be investigated further.

A careful reflection on the features of the promoters and beneficiaries of the “creative city” model is needed. It is suggested that “until we have a serious debate concerning values and ethics, the creative city will remain a comfortable ‘feel-good’ concept for consultants, policy makers and politicians rather than a serious agenda for radical change ” (Chatterton, 2000, p. 397). As Garcìa (2004) suggests, in the lessons to be learnt from past examples of culture-led urban-regeneration “the hype is surrounded by strong pressure among policy-makers and cultural practitioners to find the perfect model of action […] there are no straight answers, or clear models to follow “(Garcìa, 2004, p.322). From this perspective, cultural investments aiming at the promotion of creativity also have to meet a series of social needs and goals, such as the promotion of social inclusion, intercultural dialogue and the promotion of human and civil rights against economic and social exclusion (Donald and Morrow, 2003).



*Dr. Roberta Comunian is Creative Industries Research Associate at the School of Arts, University of Kent. Prior to this, she was lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She holds a European Doctorate title in Network Economy and Knowledge Management. She is interested in: relationship between public and private investments in the arts, art and cultural regeneration projects, cultural and creative industries, creativity and competitiveness. She has been visiting researcher at University of Newcastle investigating the relationship between creative industries, cultural policy and public supported art institutions. She has previously undertaken research on knowledge transfer and creative industries within an AHRC Impact Fellowship award at the University of Leeds.



[1] For example, Montgomery (2005) suggests how Leicester becomes the second most creative city in UK, just because too much weight is put on the fact that it has a large non-white population even if its creative economy is not developed more than other UK cities.

[2] For an useful overview on the principles of complexity theory see Martin and Sunley (2007) p. 6.

[3]  The field work undertaken for the present research included 136 semi-structured interviews with people working in the creative and cultural industries (within the private and the public and not for profit sector) in the North-East region of England. Interviews took place between November 2005 and April 2006. Furthermore, social network analysis has been used to test the role of networks and infrastructures.


Previous chapters :

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 1

Rethinking the creative city: the role of complexity, networks and interactions in the urban creative economy / 2




Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , , ,

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