Appeared on The Huffington post 4/15/11
“Creative Clusters” are the early indicators that a creative community — committed to nurturing an economy and society based on the importance of art and culture — is being developed; that a new architecture of a city is taking shape.
In the creative age, developing the “creative clusters,” like author Michael Porter’s earlier industrial or “economic clusters“, is perhaps more important to meeting the challenges of a new, global, knowledge-based economy.
Why? Because art and culture are central to ensuring vibrant economic activity and to workplace success in the 21st century.
Indeed, as we talk about the development of creative enterprises today and the foreshadowing of a whole economy based upon creativity and innovation — the dawn of a Creative Age — we are more acutely aware of the importance of a new overlay called the creative cluster, and the growing importance of fostering the development of creative products and services.
In a sense, these essentially real estate developments are often are the first signs that a community is awaking to the importance of creativity and innovation as essential elements of a successful new global economy,
It is no surprise that these clusters of creativity are popping up in cities in Europe and across America.
In the UK, co-location of creative industries has been a mainstay of economic development. The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) said it best in a major study on Creative Clusters and Innovation:
“The case studies also show that the mere existence of a creative agglomeration is not enough for the benefits from clustering to emerge. The other crucial ingredient is connectivity between firms within a cluster, with collaborators, business partners and sources of innovation elsewhere… and finally, with firms in other sectors that can act as clients, and as a source of new and unexpected ideas and knowledge. These three layers of connectivity are underpinned by a dense web of informal interactions and networking.”
In Miami, we are well aware of the astounding success the city has had establishing such a cluster. Maybe it was getting the most successful art fair in the world — The Basel — to host as second fair in Miami. Maybe it was the art deco hotels or the weather. Nonetheless, the Miami Design District is one of the most successful examples of a city revitalizing itself for the new economy.
In the last few years, the Urban land Institute (ULI) helped start a project in Chicago called the “Industrial Renaissance” aimed at “establishing a Creative Industries District” in one of the oldest but most blighted areas of the city. If successful, the district will be a “jobs producing creative hub” targeting designers, graphic designers, architects, urban planners, all the entertainment arts professionals and others representing one of fastest growth sectors of the new economy, the “creative industries”. More than 200 organizations, and over 1000 individuals are part of the Chicago effort.
And in San Diego, entrepreneur Pete Garcia, a successful artist and engineer, is also planning an arts district called I.D.E.A., for Innovation, Design, Education and Art.
Garcia sees design itself, combining technology and art in ways that the new economy most values, as the next wave of economic development. Co-location, he says, is the secret to nurturing this kind of development and he and others involved in the effort envision a ten block area of the city as ideal for such a new district.
Key, as elsewhere is getting the politicians, the business community, the developers and the education establishment to see the opportunity — indeed the urgency — of reinventing the city through incubators, through arts districts, through the establishment of creative clusters.
It is slowly but surely becoming apparent that the most successful communities of the 21st century will be places with strong and vibrant creative clusters.
Those communities placing a premium on cultural, ethnic and artistic diversity will likely burst with creativity and entrepreneurial fervor. Those that don’t will be the ghost towns of the era.
About John Eger
John M. Eger, author and lecturer on the subjects of creativity and innovation, education and economic development, is the Van Deerlin Endowed Chair of Communications and Public Policy and Director of the Creative Economy Initiative. He teaches in the School of Journalism and Media Studies, and the Honors Program at San Diego State University.