Archive for the ‘Tom Borrup’ tag
How do we sustain creativity? How do we sustain community? These questions are increasingly being asked nationally and internationally as some first world countries struggle to compete in traditional markets and many nations hope for a magical catalyst for urban regeneration. In New Zealand, Australia, Canada and to some extent Europe, these questions are increasingly salient as their populations become more multiculturally diverse. In some ways, then, the questions of sustaining creativity as well as community are intricately tied to a much larger commitment to sustaining diversity. This is not a insignificant shift in thinking as many of our modern nation states and indeed cities, have been founded on a form of ‘homogenizing’ in order to accomplish solidarity.
Jon Hawkes, a cultural analyst in Australia has done some important work on exactly these issues for public planning and policy in the 21st century. In his book, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning, he examines the importance and interconnectedness of 4 pillars of community sustainability, namely — environmental responsibility, economic health, social equity and cultural vitality. Hawkes argues that we often focus on the economic health of sustaining communities to the exclusion of the others and we fail to recognize the fundamental importance of cultural vitality to community planning. Furthermore, Hawkes argues that a community’s vitality and quality of life is directly correlated to the vitality and quality of its cultural engagement, expression, dialogue and celebration.
As a result, connecting cultural and communal sustainability, as we have also discussed with Tom Borrup, lies in fostering respectful partnerships and exchanges between multiple and diverse community stakeholders such as government, business and arts organizations. For many communities seeking a path to sustainability, this means re-imagining the connections between creative industries that ” focus on creating unique property, content or design that did not previously exist” and other economic industry drivers such as retail, real estate and financial services, as well as manufacturing. In a creative community economy, these industry sectors interlock as they focus on creating and deploying intellectual property and creative products such as books, music etc as well as creative services such as advertising and architecture across diverse sectors. There are also the live performance experiences which drive cultural tourism and which are central to community vitality as well. But more than that, it means, as seen in Gateshead and in Perth, a dedication to equity, responsibility and vitality for all community members to ensure their collective wellbeing.
As we enter this month of Finding Home and our collective stories of immigration, it is important to remember where we have come from, what we have brought with us, how to hold onto our cultural stories and practices, and then how to weave them in a way that recognizes all histories/herstories equally and which represents and equally engages, celebrates and expresses them culturally. This is no mean feat for communities and nations grounded in homogeneity. However, our multicultural nature and world now require us to rethink our ways of being together so that we all may live in a home built together. We have some wonderful opportunities for this kind of dialogue in Northern Colorado this next month and hope to hear from many of you at these events!
Wherever you go, there you are!
Last week when I interviewed Tom Borrup and he discussed the impact of globalization as well as the ways in which all communities have often untapped and obscured pockets of creativity, I was reminded of the ways in which my own community manages to surprise me on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Recently I read a research brief by Maria Rosario Jackson on the impacts on arts on communities. Sometimes we think that the creativity of a community lives in artist neighborhoods, amateur arts practices and companies, even audience participation in downtown venues and events; but in fact, creativity lives and runs through not only these events but some more ‘mundane’ places and practices as well. For both Tom Borrup and Maria Rosario Jackson, these pockets of everyday cultural creativity are reservoirs for the creative spirit and presence of multicultural diversity in ‘our homes’. They can be festivals, gatherings, community celebrations, informal but recurrent gatherings in parks and community centers, church based artistic activities — anything that maintains and invents group traditions. As Maria Rosario Jackson puts it, these are ” often important aspects of communities that go overlooked and are missed only when they are gone.”
These simpler forms of community arts and creativity provide important grounding devices for newcomers as well — they communicate home, help build social capital and individual as well as collective efficacy in terms of making a home for one’s family. They also socialize newcomers into dimensions of work and the working life of the community, mitigate crime and improve public safety. I remember living in Japan and even in the early hours of the morning, there were always lights on in houses, people out in the streets talking and walking. You were never alone. Someone was always watching for you. You were always safe.
When we first moved to Fort Collins, we lived in Colorado State University Village where many international families make their homes. The same sense of community prevails there also. Residents attend multicultural events, celebrating all their diverse cultures; children learn new games and ways of working with diverse others and languages; residents share belongings, food, toys, children run around all day between the buildings, in and out of homes, gardens and communal spaces. Everyone shares in the responsibility of the community.
This weekend I went to the International Children’s Carnival and as always, I am amazed at the diversity of people present. Sometimes when I attend these events, I can barely believe that this is the Fort Collins in which I live. The rich tapestry of peoples, languages and performances that surrounds me at these events ground myself and my family in what we consider ‘our world home’ and remind us of the often unseen gems of our community. Over the course of April, we encourage you to take some detours in your everyday life and walk some less familiar paths, sharing in some diverse celebrations of art, crafts, narrative, architecture and performance. Just this week alone, the Traveling Heritage Quilt Project presences itself in our community, there is our usual First Friday Gallery Walk on the 3rd, the Fort Collins Museum and Open Stage Theatre present “The Move to Fort Collins – Local History Stories of Immigration” and we celebrate the first open house of the Museo de las Tres Colonias this Saturday. Finally, OpenStage Theatre & Company begins their season of Anon(ymous) which will run over the course of this month.
Remember…Wherever you go, there you are!
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!
According to the United States Department of Labor, “Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. “They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay and computers.” That creates a lot of possibilities for defining artists AND creative production!
Every day, I rub elbows with people who consider themselves artists or artists in training. People with elbows often splattered with ink, paint, or dust! They usually consider themselves involved in creative production, and certainly view themselves as players in the developing creative economy. Lately, conversations inevitably lead to someone asking, “So, if creative people are necessary in this new economy, where are all the art jobs, and where are all the artists?” Some conversations are optimistic, others imagine stereotypical starving artists waiting to be discovered. All the discussions include some debate about, “what is art?” and “what is an artist?”
It’s pretty well established that old definitions of art have been demolished by multiple voices and experiences. What can be characterized as art, or more precisely old arguments about what is NOT art, have become moot points. The same can be said of the reality of working as an artist in a creative economy. Even though the word “artist,” can still conjure up specific images and ideas of what an artist’s work and workplace looks like, it’s time to free art and artists from the trappings of 19th Century studios with north light! Let’s do a little spring cleaning and throw out those static images of wooden easels, smocks and floppy berets! Get rid of ideas about artists only operating on the fringe! The Colorado Council on the Arts, reports that Colorado is home to the 5th largest group of people in the United States who call themselves artists—think about what that means. We’re in good company!
The US Department of Labor also predicts that employment of “artists and related workers,” is expected to grow in the next decade. At the same time, artists are considered important in fueling the creative economy. Tom Borrup, has taught, written, and consulted about community transformation through the arts. He believes the creative economy needs to ground itself in an active community of artists. How will artists find each other? Who gets to define community? How will we know a community of artists when we see one? Will we recognize each other? Will they be wearing berets? (Probably not, unless it’s REALLY cold!) Close your eyes—imagine the word “artist”—what do YOU see?
Actively engaging artists in a creative economy demands effort, not only on the part of artists but also from the community at large. How we collectively think about the roles of artists is important to the mix. Artists cannot be imagined as commodities, or merely funky, hip inhabitants to live in renovated buildings. Creative individuals contribute daily to the life of our city on multiple levels. They eat, shop, raise families, make homes, participate in the upcoming Beet Street events, recycle, and often do it with a little extra flair—or maybe not!
Fortunately for Fort Collins, exciting creatives in Northern Colorado aren’t waiting to be invited to the party! They’re getting together to celebrate and support each other. This week local designers will gather with friends, clients and colleagues to showcase local artists. Every week, local artists put their work on display in the city’s galleries and coffee shops, while theatre companies, museums and centers for the performing artists support emerging local talent. As the weather gets warmer, take a fresh look at the art and artists at work in our community! If you need some inspiration, check out Re:beet eNews for the lowdown on what’s going on in town!
“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!