What makes a city creatively vibrant?
As a grad student I get asked this question daily. Professors love for us to fantasize about what to measure so we can prove where we are is a vibrantly creative space. As if we can boil down a city’s creativity by some data points that are probably skewed as it is. Creativity is much deeper than what data collections and surveys portray.
I can think of many spaces and cities that have great restaurants and people purchasing seats at the local drama house to see a show, yet still don’t feel creatively vibrant. I can also think of cities where restaurants are slim, and the community can’t afford to go pay for a show, yet creativity is evident still. We place large cities like NYC and L.A. on a pedestal, claiming if we could just harness the energy they had and create the same ambience we would have a creative city. But, I mean, were they always that creative? Were they always as exciting and loud and filled with artists as they are now?
I would argue that some of the lesser known cities are some of the most creatively vibrant. I think of Cody, Wyoming where they host a “Art Round-Up” festival every year that brings artists from all over together to create art pieces live and then auction them off right after their creation (Design Destinations, 2014)! In Arizona, the small town of Ajo comes to mind. They use the arts to bring life back into their community (Arizona Daily Star, 2016). Even in Carrefour, Haiti, where I do humanitarian work, I have found creativity abounding in the most unlikely of places. I believe it is time we start asking more questions about what makes a city creative and what is happening where we are that builds creativity. What is happening that we don’t even know about? Are there clubs/groups/social gatherings happening away from our “creative centers” that we are missing? What are young people doing creatively? Are there artists in our backyards we don’t even know are there? I know countless groups that host art nights once a month at someone’s home. How many more are there happening? That is something we don’t find in data, but it makes a huge contribution to the creative vibrancy of a city. Population numbers don’t define creativity. Restaurants don’t define it either. They may contribute, but creativity is found within the present means found in the community.
What are you doing to contribute to the creative vibrancy of your city? Are you open to new creative adventures? Have you gone to one of those art nights your flamboyant neighbor has invited you to? Maybe you’ve talked about jamming with some friends for months, but you keep putting it off. I encourage you to help build the voice of creativity within your space. We don’t need to become Chicago, NYC, or L.A. to be a thriving creative city. We just need more people willing and excited about engaging in creative spaces! We need people willing to step out, believing that creativity abounds here and now, and have fun bringing it to life!
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