Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Friday, February 27, 2009
  Weathering of the Creative Economy in Recession
Speaking of MCLA profs, Greg Sheckler has a short essay about the Mortgage Crisis up and while I agree with him that the "Howitzer" approach to government intervention is warranted, it's the second half of his piece that caught my eye.

He is spot-on that the so-called creative economy is not an economic engine that is noted for creating the tangible assets in a manner that can grow an economy out of recession. His fears that the global crunch will keep things like MCLA's new science building from happening are not paranoid. I've had candid discussions with a couple of folks who are in a position to know, and regardless of his verbal promises, Governor Patrick has still not pulled the trigger on construction. This worries me.

I've never seen a quantifiable number that I consider inclusive, but the bedrock institutions that make up the base of this sector, the museums, the theaters, the colleges, etc... employ many thousands of our regions residents directly and many times more indirectly. With the exception of a few smaller organizations and galleries, all of these "companies" will most assuredly still employ people during and after this deep recession is but a chapter in a history book. And steady employment is the key to weathering a recession.

Anecdotally, most of the tourist *destinations* in the area have reported strong numbers through the last six months. I am guessing that just like frozen pizza in a grocery store, day trips and weekends, will grow inversely to the economic contraction as people curtail bigger vacation plans for the city folk we depend on. The local tourist driven businesses that are not the destinations themselves will obviously not see the level of discretionary spending that they did during flush times, but hopefully, the well run places will find ways to hang on with decreased, but steady, revenue.

So what's my point?

Check out a pass from the library and go to a museum. When you get home, call the Governor's Office and tell him to make sure that MCLA get's the damn science building that has already been funded by the legislature, gets built. It's a far bigger deal than most people realize.

UPDATE: The nation's mayors chime in on the arts economy in response to Bobby "Kenneth" Jindal:
The mayors noted that Louisiana -- according to Dun & Bradstreet -- "is home to 7,013 arts-related businesses that employ 27,117 people." And it says that in 2008, Louisiana received 27 grants worth $1.3 million from the NEA.

"Mayors clearly understand the important contribution of the arts to our local communities, financially and in terms of the quality of life for our residents," said the letter signed by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
I'd like to see the artists do something like this ( Check out the last photo, that would bring some foot traffic downtown.
greg...point taken....but the arts/tourism is a sector....a orange is made up of secctors....all the sectors make an orange....what we have now is only one sector of the orange...if that sector of the orange gets eaten then what do we orange peel...which will rot away....just like the last sector that we had here....manufacturing....what is needed here, and to an extent we have, not to the extent i'd like to see yet still to an extent, is more sectors of the orange.....we are focusing on one slice of the orange and we need to concentrate on the whole

Chris- I wasn't suggesting that we are or should be arts only. I totally agree that the arts is only one part of the equation. But the "creative economy" is more than just the arts, too. It includes the colleges, companies like VooDooVox and Waterfront. It's the restaurants and retail and even more... It's a very flexible definition.

Being a kid from Detroit, I've seen what happens when all of a region's eggs are in one basket. I would never want us to be arts only.

I am hoping that the future holds things like bio-tech and such. The two colleges are a HUGE part of that equation. It's all interconnected, or at least it should be.
Thanks Greg for the blog-mention. :)

For the record, like you I too am not advocating an art-only economy, and never have. My emphasis has been on a diversified local economy in which the arts play an important role. In my opinion in the berkshires we are certainly at the point where we now have enough arts to be an interesting and attractive place to live, and probably don't need more. But we can and should continue to use the arts to buttress other much bigger projects (sciences, etc.)

- the other greg who blogs
i wasn't saying either of you two were advocating an arts only economy.....the are they in the "creative" sector?....they're in teh educational sector....voodoovox, waterfront are a new version of a marketing definition of creative economy, as it applies now, is art and tourism....and that is all that we have enter recession/depression and what do we have? arts are a great starter course but they need an entree served with them....

The creative economy doesn't break down into neat sectors. It has more to do with intellectual property and the various ways that commerce is derived from it.

It's a pretty nebulous term. wikipedia's is a little different than mine but pretty close.

There is no real right or wrong way to define this stuff. For some discussions, clear dividing lines are helpful, for others, not so much.
Arts falls under tourism and it's my understanding that people are still planning getaways, but they are shorter ones - say long weekends - and, therefore, domestic ones. Places like the Berkshires still have hope in that context.

The other thing about the nebulous title "the arts" is that there are different types of artists. There are the show artists who you see in galleries and then there are working commercial artists (like my wife and many others around here) who don't provide for the tourism sector but do buy locally for their businesses, as well as the teaching artists, who are essentially creating both of the former, as well as art consumers. Those mean different things to an economy.
Sorry Chris if I misunderstood you. usually when I say creative economy I mean it in the broadest sense... Richard Florida 'Rise of the Creative Class' ... he tends to group education, science innovations, arts, music etc into knowledge-based productive work. Much bigger than arts alone, and more pragmatic (since art never really functions on its own).
Most people fail to recognize that the arts comprise more than just painters and actors. There are carpenters, electricians, office staff, ticket sellers, computer based designers, and the restaurants and lodging that host many of the audiences.

The arts segment is stronger when you link it with the natural advantages of the area, like hiking, hunting and skiing, since the crossover between these activities is far greater than most people realize.

Add Eduction to the mix, and you start to see the picture form. There is not a great deal you can do for the former mill workers - manufacturing has left this country for the most part. But devising an economy that will employ their children and keep them here should be a priority.

In the end it is innovation, creativity and risk taking that will get us out of the current economic collapse, and it is the students coming out of our colleges who will fill this role. Are we teaching them to think and be entrepreneurial or are we simply turning out "yes" men to follow orders in nonexistent industries?

Unfortunately, most of the "out of the box" thinking that leads to economic progress tends to get shouted down by the topix crowd. They never see the full picture, only the little piece of it their limited knowledge and experience allows them to see.

To date, this crowd has slowed the progress of the Berkshires in overcoming its industrial past, but despite them, people are moving here and progress, while slow, is being made.
Post a Comment

<< Home
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

iBerkshires' Online Event Calendar

Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

Congressional Budget Office data

Powered by Blogger