Creativity and Rural America

May 7, 2009

The creative economy movement has something for everyone.  Although I agree with much of what Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, says about the importance of a growing population that uses creativity to remain economically competitive I do have issues with parts of his theories.  I’m not the only one.  Dan Broun, recently published a great article on the potential of the creative economy in rural America, The Creativity of Rural America.  He also opened my eyes to a view on Florida’s creative class theories that I had not yet thought much about.

In his recent study on creativity in rural areas he deliberately,  “strays from the pop-economic notion of the “creative class” that too often sees metropolitan areas, with their high concentration of people with advanced degrees, as the only places where creativity is taking place.” He says, “applying the creative economy to a class of workers rather than to an actual set of industries misses a crucial component of economic development.

I agree on both counts.  Creativity does not belong to a certain class of people nor does it neccessarily congregate in metropolitan areas.  Creativity is something that each person possesses.  The potential of the creative economy lies in the empowerment of individuals through access to work space, funding, retail outlets, enlightened policy and the ability of policy planners to draft coherent strategies to establish effective economic platforms.  Dan is right to argue that is larger than a set of workers.

Second as I detailed in Creative Revolution their is danger in establishing and defining a creative class and a service class as Florida does and promotes.  Class divisions and definitions only seem to foster arguments for discriminating one group over another.  Which does not necessarily gel with the ethos of the creative sector.

Equally important to the debate in academia on definitions of the creative economy is what is actually happening on the ground to change the lives and perspectives of creative practitioners.  This is where Dan points the way with great examples of what is happening in Arkansas, North Carolina and Wyoming.

The creative economy shows potential in both metropolitan and rural areas. That potential does face similar stumbling blocks, particularly in the economic indicators domain.  Dan questions, “So why aren’t more rural regions looking to the creative economy as an engine for economic growth? The biggest reason is often simply that this sector of the economy can be hard to count.”

We are indeed a few years away from developing the economic indicators needed to fully argue the case for these industries as engines of economic development but thanks to Mr Broun and creative workers around America we are making progress.

We are at the beginning of something new and exciting.

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Cities and the Creative Industries

A Creative Industry Primer

The creative economy movement started in the UK in 1994. Follow the links to understand how national cultural policy became creative industry policy and how it's now changing the world.