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Mar 10

Thoughts on the Creative Providence Project

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What, Exactly, is a Creative?

No single question has gotten more discussion than the definition of who or what constitutes an artist, a designer or a creative. What constitutes creativity in the business sector? At the studio focusing on economic factors, panelist Jack Templin of Providence Geeks laid out an interesting cluster of clusters (definitions are totally mine, so go ahead and correct me in a comment):

  • Art - generally meaning studio art and "high brow" performing arts
  • Culture - non-art museums and some part of humanities
  • Design - commercial images and creations
  • Entertainment - low brow performing arts and non-arts venues (nightlife)

These four clusters, he felt, had a certain symbiosis and supported each other. For the purposes of the Cultural Plan, they seem to be settling around a definition that would put art at the center and then include the relavant portions of the other three clusters. And, for those purposes, that make quite a bit of sense. 

But for my purposes, this cluster of clusters - this mega-cluster - is incomplete. 

To begin, the geeks are not included. Geeks like the arts, music in particular. I joked with Jack, "How many of the geeks are in a band?" And the answer is a lot of them. (The reason for this anomaly is that both music and computers are based on mathematics.) Geeks also play a vital role in the arts-based megacluster. Digital technology drives a large portion of the work in the design and entertainment clusters, so creatives in those areas can end up being very geeky, indeed.

The fact that Jack was asked to sit on the panel - and that it made imminent sense that he do so - shows how close these two clusters are. When tech companies look at relocating, different states' tax policies are rarely issue #1. They want a place where their people can be happy and comfortable, and that means a lively urban lifestyle. Invariably, they want diverse ethnicities and an active local arts scene. Good transit helps, too, but that's another conversation.

The other cluster that's missing from this megacluster is the green cluster. The logic isn't as clear as with the geeks, but the connections are strong with a significant portion of creatives. First off, if they get to build anything, they want to build it green. This segment is generally urban in mindset as well as location, so public transit plays an important role in their lives. Many of them play a direct role in environmental organizations. And they like to connect their creative work to this cause. 

All Roads Lead To Real Estate

It seems like virtually all of the conversations wind up talking about real estate and the cluster of issues associated with it.

  • Financing - and how the deck is stacked against creatives
  • Environment/green building
  • Zoning - and how the deck is stacked against creatives
  • Leaseholder security - and how the deck is stacked against creatives 

Creatives, not surprisingly, tend to be non-traditional in their approach to space. A finished space with a good address does not fit the bill. Rather, an unfinished or sem-finished space at low cost will serve nicely, even if it's in a backwater like, say, Pawtucket.

When creatives rent a low-cost space, they do so knowing that, at some point, they will have to leave that space so that the owner can enrich himself. It could be for higher rents, or redevelopment, or the building's sales. But, inevitably, the creative will be evicted.

Like most people, creatives are generally happy to see their neighborhoods improve, but not at the expense of their own security. Cities need to find methodologies that allow neighborhoods to improve while maintaining a certain amount of low-cost, unfinished space for creative use. 

Contemporary placemaking supports this notion. The authenticity or liveliness of a place depends largely on diversity. As the demographics of a neighborhood narrow, so does its appeal as a place.

Community First

For those who primarily identify as artists, this last point - that they shouldn't have to leave their own neighborhood when it starts to improve - leads to the thought:

Niether should anybody else.

That is, if it makes sense for artists to enjoy a certain accomodation so they can stay in a certain neighborhood even though they're poor, then all low-income people should be afforded that same accomodation, regardless of their place in the creative ecosystem. If it makes sense to create a program to help artists buy and renovate abandonded properties, then it makes sense for that program to be available to everybody who feels they can successfully renovate a property. 

These artists break from the tradition of artist-as-elitist. If anything, they are populists, even proletarians. They want to be a part of the community where they live, and they want to use their talent and energy to improve that community, not just for themselves, but for all its members. As Bert Crenca said at that meeting:

I don't know how to build an art space. I just know how to build a community.

Mar 05

Joint Event with WCSANS and New Commons

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Michelle Gonzalez
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tara_crawford_roth-195x211.pngThe speaker , Tara Crawford Roth, is a certified intuitive Business and Life Coach. She is a sought after motivational speaker and teacher as well as a trainer for the International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited iPEC coaching certification program and the Founder of the New England Holistic Chamber of Commerce. Her topic "Use your Intuition to Achieve your Goals" will both inspire and challenge attendeesMichelle Gonzalez of New Commons (and convener of Soul at Work Cafes) will add to the fun through leading  café style discussions.

The Café style discussions are just one of the ways that New Commons helps businesses in particular find new ways to solve old problems.  Maureen notes,

Café style discussions not only elicit creative thinking, but are also a fun way for attendees get to know one another, which is what WCSWANS events are about! So Michelle and I thought it would be a great idea to do an event together".

In this economy it is important to make connections and gather support from friends. It is also important for businesses owners to get the word out their services.  This event offers women the opportunity for both.  A fun event that helps so many people... what a great idea. A portion of the proceeds for this event will be donated to Starlight.  The event will take place March 26 ; 6pm to 9pm @ McGovern's on the Water;

$20.00 members/$30 non-members (reg fee may apply);

cost includes includes: fruit, cheese and cracker reception, soup, dinner, dessert, coffee,tax, tip, and presentation .  Pre-registration is required. More info: www.wcswans.com or 401-694-1284

Mar 05

Building Energy 2009

Posted by Robert J. Leaver in Untagged 

Robert J. Leaver
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Rising sea level, the urbanization of America and the world, and rising energy prices, are major conditions impacting how we think about and how we will design our next buildings and create whole places.

Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) pulls together the diverse disciplines of builders, developers, engineers, property management companies, and professional service providers.  I thought that you would find valuable resources at this conference to help you more effectively understand and handle these environmental conditions as they impact the creation of healthy buildings and places.

In addition, for the past 34 years, this group has been home to the best talent in the northeast regarding high performing/green buildings, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. What sets NESEA apart is its commitment to solutions, proven results, pioneering technology, and collaborative whole systems thinking.  I have worked with these good folks off-and-on since 1994 and have found them to be an exceptional resource and a remarkable professional association of practitioners.  Currently, I am working on strategy and governance with them.

Every March, NESEA puts on its Building Energy (BE) conference in Boston for over 3,000 professional practitioners.  Couple of highlights from this year's program:

  • Conference theme is: Real Solutions. Real Experts. Tuesday, March 10 to Thursday, March 12, 2009 Boston MA.  Checkout: www.BuildingEnergy.nesea.org for the conference program. 
  • This year's keynote talk on "Deep Energy Retrofits of Existing Buildings" will be delivered by Marc Rosenbaum, a colleague of ours since the early 90's. 
  • A variety of tracks to weave the conference together.  I co-designed Whole Systems in Action, track 7, along with some of New Commons' closest NESEA colleagues:  John Abrams, Amelia Amons, Paul Lipke, Bill Reed and Jamie Wolf (see our bios here). We all plan to deliver a highly practical and interactive program.  Our aim is to raise the level of understanding and the practice of whole systems collaboration.  This one tool will help us all more effectively handle climate change and the reality that oil levels are at post-peak.    Click here to see our track content: http://buildingenergy.nesea.org/trackseven.php

I hope to see you at NESEA-BE09.  It will be worth your time!

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