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From Creative Economy to Creative Society

The concept of “creative economy” has been embraced by a wide spectrum of advocates, from artists and cultural organization representatives to mayors and policy makers interested in urban revitalization. The argument is a simple one: attracting a group of highly educated creative individuals to a region is good for the economy. A concentration of artists, architects, computer programmers, and university professors can create high energy and synergy. In turn, their efforts can generate jobs and produce tax revenue. Such is the attractive theory. But does pursuit of a creative economy always lead to unmitigated positive results? Or does it also lead to inequitable social and geographic distribution of benefits? Is one person’s urban rejuvenation another’s social dislocation? The question is rigorously explored in an article from The Reinvestment Fund that is now more than a year old but definitely worth a return read.

WolfBrown faced the question in a recent cultural planning project for the Richmond region of Virginia. Among issues explored was whether the positive urban redevelopment of blighted real estate that has come about as a result of the hard work, investment, and sweat equity of artists is also leading to dislocation of some of the city’s poor residents. The final report submitted by WolfBrown recommended both continued cultural economic development by the creative class but also a focus on preserving neighborhoods and an investment in activities that would encourage community vibrancy for those with historically local roots.

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