Saturday, June 9, 2012

National Goverors Association Presents New Engines of Growth: Part 3, Critical Ingredients for Innovative Places

This is the third in a series of posts discussing a study released in May 2012 by the National Governors Association titled "New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture and Design".

The report makes the argument that arts, culture, and design can assist states with economic growth because they can:

1. Provide a fast-growth, dynamic industry cluster
2. Help mature industries become more competitive
3. Provide the critical ingredients for innovative places
4. Catalyze community revitalization; and
5. Deliver a better-prepared workforce.

My first post discussed The Industry Cluster, and I showed how the newly formed networking group The Ashland Arts Alliance serves to solve many of the issues raised in forming and accelerating the growth of a creative industry cluster.

My second post covered how creativity can help mature industries become more competitive through creative marketing, bolstering tourism, and innovative manufacturing.

The third chapter of the study opens:

The most successful American places in the 21st century are likely to be innovation hubs. They are locations that support an open innovation business model, foster co-location, and promote easy and constant interaction among many different industries and a wide variety of creative workers, from artists to scientists to engineers. It may seem ironic in today’s global economy, but place has become more important than ever.

Later it states:

Proximity reduces the overall costs of collaboration and makes it easier for the collaborators—both businesses and individual workers—to respond to new opportunities quickly and retool or reconfig- ure as needed.

And then later:

A number of states are supporting the development of more and better innovative places generally and innovation hubs specifically. Three recurring themes have appeared in this effort:

  • Launching cultural districts and arts enterprise zones.
  • Creating spaces for artists and other creative talent to cluster, interact, and thrive.
  • Integrating arts, culture, and design into innovation hubs that encourage collaboration.
The town of Ashland Virginia just launched an arts and culture district. I've been working up in Arlington Virginia, where one of the most remarkable and innovative spaces I've ever seen was created, the Gunston Arts Center. I'll be writing a post on that in the near future. Here's a sneak peak; a theatrical scene shop and two performance spaces on the campus of Gunston Middle School. The shop is available to all county theatrical companies to build sets. Here I'm beginning construction on the set for The American Century Theater's production of Sister Mary Ignatious Explains It All For You.

Scene Shop at Gunston Middle School

Overhead view of Arlington County scene shop at Gunston Middle School

Here are a couple of shots of the installed set. Note, these are not photographs of a classroom at a Middle school. They are photographs of a set of a classroom built in a black box theater on the campus of a Middle School!

The set installed in Theater 2 at Gunson Middle School

Close up of set for Sister Mary

The study goes on to say:

Just as states have created spaces for individual artists to live and work, they have created spaces within cities and towns for a wide variety of creative individuals and enterprises—artists, website designers, architects, writers, university professors, product engineers—to be close enough to visit one another “before the cup of coffee gets cold.” Increasingly, states are helping to create hubs and zones that encourage this kind of proximity, not just within economic sectors but across a diverse range of industries in which creativity matters, such as technology, entertainment, journalism, finance, and high-end manufacturing. The most successful of those initiatives are incorporating the arts and creative enterprises, not only as part of the industry mix but also as partners in the planning and development of the innovation zones. Inclusion of the arts and culture in all dimensions of hub development helps to create a fertile habitat for innovation and, ultimately, economic renewal and long-term prosperity, even in states that are facing some of the most acute economic challenges.

There is a recurring theme in all of this. That of government providing not just a hand wave of zoning with a few tax incentives amounting to a hundred dollars a year or so, but of providing real tangible space and other incentives to draw creative people to their communities.

I say the competition is on. I say that it has never been a better time to be an artist in America, and that communities will have to up the ante if they want to draw driven, committed, creative individuals to be part of their economic growth strategy.

This is serious business folks. We are talking about the potential extensive relocation of many of the most creative people in America. What is going to draw them to your town? What are you going to do to keep them?

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