The CreArt Network: Why artists in the city?. Dr. Jonathan Vickery. CreArt Ambassador
The CreArt Network of Cities for Artistic Creation have been working hard – promoting art, artists and creativity within European cities. They have been holding public seminars, exhibitions, workshops, and facilitating exchange between European cities. But why? Why do we need art in the city? Surely we have enough art already – in the museums and galleries. Surely during this time of crisis what we really need is a growing economy?
The CreArt Network challenges this distinction. It challenges the assumption that the ‘economy’ is independent of culture. It also challenges the assumption that art is not a part of the economy, or cannot play a role developing the economy.
CreArt does this by focussing on our cities. Global organisations for economic development – the WTO or OECD, for example – keep telling us that the future of our national economies lie in the success of our cities. The largest cities are the most important. They also tell us that our cities are the central source of our social problems, and if they are not effectively managed they threaten our economies.
How is a city effectively managed? Well-known economists, like the American Richard Florida, point out that cities need more than good management and social order. They require something else – they require an openneness to change, new knowledge, and an expansion of horizons. They require a ‘culture’ in which the necessary human sources of economic development can flourish.
So what does it mean to create a ‘culture’ for economic development? This is the policy problem European cities are facing right now. It is not a question that economists have answered. The CreArt project is gathering artists, cultural workers, scholars, as well as policy-makers, and making some important assertions on this issue.
First, CreArt stands for the significance of artistic creativity. Economic development in Europe was always accompanied by cultural development. The artist, craftsman and designer, forged new styles, movements, and the new values that contributed to rapid change. Second, culture was the way European cities could interconnect. It was the conduit through which inspiration, influence, learning and sharing of knowledge travelled. And lastly, despite the emphasis of global economic statistics, the large cities in Europe are not the only answer. CreArt turns our attention to Europe’s smaller cities: they are flexible, faster to respond to change, and more integrated with their regions.
Dr Jonathan Vickery
Director: Arts,Enterpriseand Development. Centre for Cultural Policy Studies
University of Warwick