Whither (or wither?) the “creative community”?

Then: Knight Creative Communities Initiative, 2008:

Technology, Tolerance, Territory, and Talent. These four T’s are the base for building a more attractive environment for economic growth, according to Dr. Richard Florida and a growing number of other internationally known researchers.

In 2007-2008, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation in connection with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation led a process to build on these assets in the Twin Ports….

Now: Alec McGillis, “The Ruse of the Creative Class,” The American Prospect 4 January 2010.

[It] is wrong, [Florida’s former manager] says, to see any conflict in Florida’s dire pronouncements on the places that bankrolled this success, because he hadn’t promised prosperity in the first place. “He wasn’t really making prescriptions,” Frantz says. “This wasn’t Jesus Christ throwing the money men out of the temple; this was an academic. He was a fucking college professor, and you’re hoping to resurrect Canton, Ohio? Yeah, good luck with that.”

We talked a little about the Knight Creative Communities Initiative project back at its inception. Florida sounds like a classic snake-oil salesman, but I note that people who participated in the project seemed to feel it was valuable in spite of his contribution/lack thereof. I’d be interested to hear what people had to say about the project–and its broader goals of community revitalization–now.


trends younger

about 14 years ago

the local efforts to capitalize on Florida's maxims we're well intentioned but missed the mark. Reducing support of the creative class here to "retention of 18-35 year olds" is mis-guided and merely feeds the narcissism of the XGen. Creatives dont need/want to be pandered to, they want high fiber healthy enviroments, neo-post-modern nods to local kitschy-quirk and JOBS! For as "savy" as the PDD set is, it cant offset the weight of entrenched "old" money clutching to a post-industrial anti-inertia which locks us in a stagnant cesspool of profit before progress. All the $$ that was thrown at thedusu.com should have been disbursed to local creatives in micro loans to foster culture and creative/tech start-ups with national legs. That website was an artificial and non-organic slap in the face failure. Also why the hell is there no Higher Ed presence in downtown Duluth. WTF?!? Look at Florida's success stories .. ALL have a connection with Higer Ed in the Downtown ...NO BRAINER! .. Oh, that's right, the rich few here control our future .. hording it for re-sale to the baby-boomer retirees who will flock here b/c we have fresh water for their AZ golf courses ...


about 14 years ago

There is no silver bullet. There are, however, small steps to be taken with thoughtfulness. Are we better off as a community today than 10 years ago? It depends on how you define better off. Living wage jobs? Affordable housing? Tolerance? I personally think things are better, but there is a long way to go. I guess I'm part of the creative class in this town, but the truth of it is that my income comes from touring outside the region. If I played more in Duluth, I'd never pay my bills and you all would get sick of me pretty fast- mostly because there aren't enough of us with the disposable income to truly support each other's work. The Zeppa Foundation has had a decent impact for how recently it has jumped into the pool. We need to celebrate those kinds of successes and stop wasting time (and tax increment financing) on the smokestack/stadium chase. My creative friends who moved away 20 years ago are blown away at what Duluth has become. But they're all making an actual living in San Fran or New York or wherever, and not a one would move back to Duluth for a $10/hour job. You love or hate a place, you stay in or leave a place for a variety of reasons. Right now I'm pretty happy and content. Maybe it's more luck than skill...


about 14 years ago

Creative ventures in the twin ports area seem to have had a short lifespan, be it music, food, drinking establishments, tourist attractions.  I'll bet that 80% of the local population, if they choose to enjoy a drink, it will be a budweiser or miller or a cheap mixed drink.  Along the same lines, you'll find the palate tending towards Old Country Buffet or americanized "asian" food, instead of the more interesting exotic (don't get me wrong, we have plenty of cool places to eat, thai, sushi (my god, what were they thinking :), and they work).

I wish I was educated enough to quote something clever, but I know I heard once that you can judge a society by their choice in food.

There's also the disparity between classy and non; meaning you have the cliché wannabes that mostly consist of white collars and college kids trying to pretend they're clubbing in "Sex in the City" or some such, and you have a lot of middle-class people that really don't want to change and want steak and potatoes for dinner.

Many people want Duluth to be upscale, but as long as I've been alive, a strong sociological resistance is apparent, blatant even; possibly caused by a strong religious upbringing.  How to invigorate?  I've no idea, but it seems to me a large uphill battle, let's say an hors cat. climb.

Richard Florida has perhaps the right idea, but bad execution of it.  And also, who's to say the analysis afterwards was sound.

Oh, and what "trends younger" said.

The Big E

about 14 years ago

Well, as the MacGillis article notes, Florida's latest pronouncement is that everyone should move out of places like Duluth.


about 14 years ago

It sounds like Mr. Florida has been corrupted by the capitalists. Of course they want all the creative types to move to the big cities. The increased competition for jobs/gigs/wages will drive the price down! A community thrives when it appreciates itself. Seriously, if Duluthians hate it so much, why are they still Duluthians? I'm not ready to write off any place- except Texas.


about 14 years ago

TimK is saying it all better than I ever could. I think Duluth is poised on the edge of a cultural renaissance -- and a lot of it's due to the heroic efforts of the DS Community Fdn and also the Zeppa Fdn. But if I weren't able to have a job from beyond Duluth, I don't think I could afford to live here. I don't know how people do it.


about 14 years ago

Duluth Skateboarders GTFO.


about 14 years ago

Skateboarders are vital to our city's cultural and economic health. If it weren't for skateboarders, there would be no art or culture or economic investment. Thank God for skateboarders; they make such an important contribution to our local culture and economy due to their skateboarding. Skateboarders are super important. Where would we be without skateboarders?!

Burly Burlesque

about 14 years ago

"All the $$ that was thrown at thedusu.com should have been disbursed to local creatives in micro loans to foster culture and creative/tech start-ups with national legs. That website was an artificial and non-organic slap in the face failure."

This is right on (except for the past-tense conjugation of the verb to be in the final quoted sentence, unfortunately). The dusu is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with everything. This summer I watched a man chalk the dusu logo onto a sidewalk downtown. As far as I can tell, I witnessed the single most affective moment in the history of the project. 

Al Sparhawk's head-jerk keeps/attracts more of your precious target demographic than the entire dusu dream - chalk and all. Shit, these days Gartman may be able to make that claim. (But not with the head-jerk, per say.) 

I live here precisely because the "creative class" doesn't. Don't fuck that up, straights. You know the whole "Duluth is a terrible place to do business"-thing? That is a colloquial manifestation of everything good and poor and righteous and beautiful about this town. Try and not sell that away for a shot at a circle-jerk with Lex Luther at the Chamber. I'd rather suffer a Panera Bread than Duluth's version of a Boing-Boing contributor. But maybe that's just me.

I appreciate this post as I make fun of Dick Florida and the "creative class" fucking constantly, but mostly it elicits blank stares.


about 14 years ago

Having sampled some of the "creative class" in other cities, I can actually see Burly's point.

We are Duluth's creative class. If we "import" more of the same from out there somewhere, what we have is significantly diminished in favor of something that is clearly not what we are. I've seen that happen in lovely little towns (like Taos, for instance) all over, with huge reputations of being creative "incubators." the highbrow takes over and quickly begins to dictate what is and isn't.

Render unto Minneapolis that which belongs to Minneapolis.


about 14 years ago

Well, I agree that Florida turns out to be a "snakeoil salesman." However, I think some good did come out of that too-expensive endeavor on the part of our community. 

I was asked by my dean (I teach at UMD) to participate in a reading group of Florida's book (which I found pretty useless--the book, not the reading group). But I went ahead and attended a couple of the meetings associated with this effort, and suggested to the conveners of the "We Mean Green" group (one of several working groups created through this initiative) that they connect up with a nascent group called "Sustainable Duluth."

The two groups did coalesce (not through my efforts, but their own--I'm not looking for any cred. here), and created an on-going group, Sustainable Twin Ports (http://www.sustainabletwinports.org/), that has been conducting a project they call the "Early Adopters" project. See their web site.

It may not result in drawing or keeping "the Creative Class" (meh) in the Twin Ports, but I do think it's a positive contribution to our community.

So, yeah, "snakeoil," but sometimes even snakeoil can be used to grease some of the bearings of community.

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