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Archive for the ‘the creative economy’ tag

Key Concepts : Art is Ordinary

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The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, defines culture as an economic resource. Their position is that human creativity is essential, in contrast to the old world view that science, industry and culture are considered distinct. In fact, continuing to categorize human creativity is considered a serious barrier to progress in business, social regeneration and in the arts. “In the era of creative economy, art is ordinary, and there is essentially no difference between the creativity of the entrepreneur, the scientist and the artist” (creativeclusters.com). This means that creative individuals must work to unleash their creative pursuits by rejecting existing categories and paradigms to pursue new ways of thinking and working. In this model, entrepreneurial and technical skills become essential in the arts and traditional arts skills become critical in business.

“All this means that the role of the artist is changing. The artist is no longer a peculiar outsider, with a magical gift that the state or the rich must protect. Artistic creativity is an ordinary human activity. Playing a musical instrument, writing, making a film—these are specialisms and as with any specialism it’s hard work and some people will be better than others. But creative skill is not magic. It can be taught and learnt.”

(creativeclusters.com)

Do you think art is ordinary? Right now in Fort Collins (through September 25), you have a great opportunity to contemplate this question! In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, CSU’s University Art Museum received a gift of photographs by the legendary Pop artist Andy Warhol and you can see them along with borrowed examples of his Flower paintings (based on photographs of hibiscus blossoms). Andy Warhol’s art has become such a big part of US visual culture, that today it is easy to ignore how “out of the ordinary” it would have looked when he first created it. Did you know that Warhol used commercial fluorescent paints—not the oil paints that artists were “supposed” to use? His images and ways of making ordinary objects into graphic statements have become so much a part of our visual language that knock-off examples surround us in stores, advertising and interiors. For example, for a price online, you can upload your own photo image, have it transformed into a punchy, brightly colored, Warhol-like canvas, and hang it in your home.

Andy Warhol signing soup can in Fort Collins, 1981, Photo from CSU Library

Andy Warhol signing soup can in Fort Collins, 1981, Photo from CSU Library

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was born “Andrew Warhola,” to Slovakian immigrant parents. He was good at drawing and painting when he was young and later studied at what is now Carnegie Mellon University, continuing onto a career in magazine illustration and advertising. His sensibility for repetition and photo images grew out of mimicking mass advertising.

In the 1960s, when “fine art” and “commercial art” were still considered absolutely distinct categories in a hierarchy of creative expression, Warhol made paintings of famous American products like Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. Later, he made silkscreen prints of products in order to not only make art about mass produced items but to actually mass produce art. He hired and supervised “art workers” to make prints, shoes, films, and other items at his studio, The Factory in New York City, which became the meeting place for a wide range of artists. Think Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Truman Capote, Debbie Harry and The Velvet Underground for example. Warhol and other Pop artists challenged established ideas of art—including whether “fine art” could be mechanically reproduced. Ironically, Warhol’s work is now housed in established museums and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh is the largest American art museum dedicated to a single artist! Do you think that debate has been won?

Moreover, long before the “Superstar,” reality television and internet fame possibilities of today, Warhol believed that the media could make any person famous in a cycle of disposable celebrity. He was especially drawn to the images of people in publicity stills and newspapers and to their stories of personal tragedy. He modified photo images to create iconic paintings of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and others. However, when he “sampled” a photograph from Modern Photography Magazine, the photographer sued. After that, Warhol took thousands of his own photographs, becoming a prolific photographer to create his own source material, although evidence of this process has not been widely exhibited. Did you know that Warhol often used an ordinary Polaroid camera to photograph friends, who like him, were also celebrities? Don’t miss your opportunity to see examples of how art is ordinary and learn more about Warhol right here in Fort Collins, at CSU’s University Art Museum.

While you are there, think about the relationships between photographer, model, and image. Our understandings of these 3 components of photography reveal much about our cultural definitions of art, artist, and creativity. Is art really ordinary? If art is ordinary, is art education basic to being educated? Where do art and process connect/disconnect? Should art be integrated into life, and everyday life into art?

Who gets to make art? What do you think? We look forward to hearing from you!

Read about Denver-based photographer Mark Sink’s relationship to Warhol—Andy Warhol was his hero.

Read about Warhol’s visit to Fort Collins in 1981.

Read memories of Warhol’s visit to Fort Collins.

The Fort Collins Museum and More Meetup Group

Thanks for the photo estaticist!

Art for all!

Deborah Lombard

Adjusting definitions of creativity.

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I’ve been thinking more about creative economy.  Under a heading of “key concepts” for creative economy, creativeclusters.com states that “creativity is the key factor driving development.”  Their position is that, “[a]cross the world, enterprises based on individual creativity are booming.  Furthermore, knowledge and culture-based activities now play a central role in the activities of all businesses. This is the era of the creative economy.”

One of the ideas behind creative economy, is that up until now, the industrial age harnessed human creativity to focus on mass production.  In order to create the most profit, industrial manufacturing standardized products to appeal to the largest group of people possible.  Employees and consumers were not imagined as individuals but as a target market who could be convinced that they all wanted (and needed!) the same things.  The mindset that drove this kind of production, pushed us to collectively separate creative wealth and power from economic wealth and power.  Proponents of creative economy argue that today, many people still maintain this distinction, to the point of believing that creativity and economics are binary opposites.  All over the world, we’ve bought into the idea that economic and creative activity require distinct types of behavior, learning and language.  Our institutions reflect this paradigm, so that our education and political systems separate the arts, science, and business from each other.

Why should we evaluate creativity, economics, and art at this point in time?  Most of us can sense that we are moving into a different world driven by technology.  Earlier in history, the agricultural age was replaced by the industrial age, and once again a shift is taking place.  We are living in a world where products produced by machines that rely on raw materials (like coal and steel) can no longer be considered as infinite.  In this new age, the most valuable products become ideas and meanings, produced by the imagination—not by machines.  To participate in this new age, we need to adjust our definitions of creativity.  Artistic creativity must now be understood as ordinary human activity that can be taught and learned.
Steampunk Space Helmet

Steampunk Space Helmet

As I work to process these concepts of creativity, the Steampunk movement provides me with fantastic visuals of what human imagination can produce and even sell.  Steampunk starts with concepts rooted in fantasy and speculative fiction set in the era of steam power—usually 19th century, Victorian England.  The twist is that elements of science fiction, fictional technology or real technology are added to the unique mix.  If you’ve never heard of Steampunk, do a web search and be amazed at the exquisite examples you’ll find.  Steampunk fashion provides limitless individual examples, like an elaborate Victorian bustle dress adorned with discarded pocket watches.  A closer look reveals that the dress has been sewn out of a surplus military parachute. Rooted in the remnants of industrial production, Steampunk narratives, ideas and objects, explore the past and the present to imagine the future.  I read somewhere that science fiction allows us to emotionally cope with change.  Steampunk shows that we can proceed with unlimited imagination and style!  A new creative economy is as possible as our collective imagination.

Have old goggles, will travel!

Thanks for the photos JoesSistah, pashashaLush.i.ous, and  Foxtongue !

Deborah Lombard

Tom Borrup talks about creative economy and rejuvenating communities!

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Listen to the podcast:

Welcome to the first podcast for this blog, featuring Tom Borrup, a leader and innovator in non-profit community and cultural work for over twenty-five years. Tom’s work explores the intersections between

culture, community building, and economic development  and he consults with foundations, nonprofits and public agencies across the U.S. in strategic planning and program evaluation. He has been especially involved with projects nurturing artists and other cultural assets in diverse urban communities, and has served on multiple boards for arts funding and leadership development. Over the course of his career, Tom has consulted with the Rockefeller, Ford, Wallace, and Andy Warhol Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College, and continued there to receive his M.A. in Communications and Public Policy. Tom currently teaches for the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and for the Institute for Arts Management at the University of Massachusetts.

When we talked with Tom, we asked him about his views on creative economy and its influence in contemporary times. He shared with us the ways in which the forces of globalization have forced communities to focus on and encourage their multicultural nature as a source of creative efforts and perspectives as well as a continual source of inspiration and learning. Our increasing knowledge of the world around us is forcing us as individuals and communities to revisit the ways in which we function and to think creatively as we adapt new ideas and new cultures into our lives. For Tom, this perspectival shift is becoming central to community survival.

Creativity is about being inquisitive and being open to new ideas as well as new ways those ideas can be put together. Artists are central to the sustenance of creativity as this is part of their natural way of working and being as individuals. Thriving communities are open and welcoming to new ideas and new people. Cultural celebrations bring people together and are a baseline ingredient for encouraging a true sense of community. Tom shares with us several examples from his work over the years as well as how different arts organizations and community initiatives encourage creative communities to thrive. We hope you will learn as much as we did about participating in community based arts from Tom and look forward to seeing you all at our own Finding Home celebrations over the month of April!

With thanks to frenchista and pbo31 for the images!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Raising a Creative Economy

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“the Creative Economy at its best, is about communities taking responsibility for their condition and creating meaningful work and a viable economy with the most powerful resources at their disposal. These include the distinct nature and culture of their place, and the creativity of the people — all the while welcoming and learning from those who pass through or who decide to stay” (Tom Borrup, 2009).

When we say someone or something is creative, what do we mean? Imaginative? Innovative? Inventive? Artistic? Fantastic?


Now imagine these adjectives combined with the word ‘economy’ (meaning management of the house)….imaginative economy, inventive economy, artistic economy, fantastic economy…. getting the idea?

The term and phenomenon of the “creative economy” describes industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation of ideas, products and/or services. These industries and activities are critical not only because of their contribution to the knowledge economy which is in the process of engulfing the globe, but also because of their capacity for urban and civic regeneration, the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural identity and the creation of places and communities as ‘destinations’. Tom Borrup consults, teaches, and writes about community transformation, cultural infrastructure, and the creative economy. He believes that the creative economy grounds itself in an active community of artists, an eternal and constant spring of respect for indigenous/multiple cultures, and finally and most importantly, cultural and economic equity.

In their recent report on the state of the arts in Colorado, the Colorado Council on the Arts issued some surprising statements on the nature of the creative economy in our communities. Indeed, it seems that Colorado is actually quite a creative state, ranking 5th nationally in terms of the concentration of artists overall; 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers. Interestingly only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont rank higher. Here in the Northwest of Colorado, we grow arts and music festivals, visual artists hang down in the Southwest corner where the red rocks, white snow, and green pines blind us with their beauty and the literati hang in the center of the state, inspired by the clear air of the mountains and lakes.

These creative activities, industries, communities and populations are sustained through their emotional and aesthetic appeal to others as they engage in work which is inherently creative and artistic. Why is such work meaningful? Because long before we were literate, art and our artistic endeavors formed the base of a universal language and a dominant form of communicating place, identity, purpose and membership. Tom Borrup believes that creative economies and communities hold onto the distinctiveness of place, remain open to learning and reinvention and accept new ideas from unlikely places, forming common and strong bonds between those involved in local cultural practices and the economic livelihood of their communities. Drawing from the Houston based Project Row Houses, Borrup proposes that in creative communities and economies, art and creativity are woven into the very fabric of life through rituals, ceremony and other utilitarian activities; quality education and strong neighborhoods sustain social safety nets for the community and facilitate social responsibility; economic development is essential for all residents both present and future and architecture as a social practice, should make sense of and preserve a community’s character.

So, make 2009 your year to raise the arts and creative life of your community – check out our website to see and experience the extraordinary offerings here for you – see a show, hear a speaker, go to a festival, and bring your friends!

With thanks to Amanda Woodward and *Sally M* for their fantastic art!

Kirsten Broadfoot