A new international study of 12 major cities: "they are powerhouses for culture"

Mark Brown, The Guardian [UK], 8/1/12

The World Cities Culture Report 2012 [is] an international survey which is the biggest of its kind examining in number-crunching detail the cultural offerings of 12 cities, although the authors stress that it is not an attempt to rank them. One of the report's central points is that world cities are as important in terms of culture as they are in finance or trade. The report says: "Culture in all its diverse forms is central to what makes a city appealing to educated people and hence to the businesses which seek to employ them." It was commissioned by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and is being published to coincide with a cultural summit in London in which representatives of the 12 cities -- London, Berlin, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo -- will gather to discuss common aims. Johnson said: "World cities are international hubs for commerce and trade, but as this groundbreaking report makes clear, they are powerhouses for culture too - in London the creative industries alone contribute 19 billion to our economy and employ 386,000 people. In coming together as city leaders and policymakers we want to harness the full potential of culture, which makes our cities exciting and desirable places to live in and visit, but also makes a massive contribution to wider social and economic goals." The report says the contribution of the arts and creative industries is fundamental to a city's health. It uses 60 different indicators and reveals that

  • London has the most museums at 173 which includes 11 national museums; while Berlin has 158 combined; Paris has 137; and New York has 131.
  • Paris has the most art galleries (1,046) followed by London (857), New York (721) and Tokyo (688).
  • Paris has 830 public libraries compared to Shanghai's 477, London's 383, Tokyo's 377, Johannesburg's 234, New York's 220, Sydney's 154 and Berlin's 88.
  • Tokyo has the most bookshops (1,675); Shanghai has 1,322 and Johannesburg has 1,020.
  • Paris has the most cinemas (302) and cinema screens (1,003) in the world.
  • New York comes out top in terms of number of theatres. It has 420, compared to 353 in Paris, 230 in Tokyo, 214 in London and 184 in Istanbul. London's theatre admissions total is the second highest at 14.2 million-- but it is dwarfed by New York which has twice that number at 28.1 million.
  • Paris is top in terms of live music venues: 423 compared to 385 in Tokyo; 349 in London; 294 in Sao Paulo and 277 in New York.
  • London does come top for comedy performances: 11,388 compared to 11,076 in New York and 10,348 in Paris. And the city also has a strikingly high number of restaurants with 37,450, or 478 for each 100,000 of population.

The report addresses the assumption by some that the world is 'flattening' or becoming more homogenous; that cities are becoming more similar places. "What links world cities to one another is trade, commerce and finance. What makes them different from one another is culture."

 

Is Houston next big arts hub? Study reveals potential of America's "coolest city."

Whitney Radley, CultureMap.com, 8/1/12

With its worldwide reputation for a booming energy sector, Houston's creative side is easy to overlook. But a just-released study paints the city's economy as ripe for future creative growth.  At a Tuesday press conference, filmmakers, artists, architects, photographers, musicians, graphic designers, novelists, choreographers and more joined up with city officials and heads of creative organizations to reveal the findings of The Creative Economy of Houston study. Mayor Annise Parker noted that the study's findings -- a conservative quantification of how much the arts and creative sector impacts the Houston economy -- are important to note in the city's push for job creation and economic sustainability. The report finds that Houston's creative industry saw an 8% gain between 2001 and 2011; it's expected to grow another 7% in the next five years. Overall, the creative industry earned $4.32 billion in 2011, with an economic impact of more than $9.1 billion.  An important facet of the report is its correlation [with] other creative cities: Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.  In comparison to the others, Houston and Dallas were the only two to see positive job growth in the past decade, with projections of continuing that growth at a rapid pace.  Plus, the median earnings per creative worker are higher in Houston than anywhere else, at $21.58 per hour, which -- coupled with great demand (only about half of the $21.93 billion spent on creative goods and services in 2011 was produced and sold locally) -- renders the city an ideal spot for creatives. Based on a 7-point list of considerations, followed by a list of issue topics and talking points in a "takeaways" section, that seems the aim of the nearly 50-page report. Houston's diversity and its history of success and job growth even throughout the recession, plus recent kudos [by Forbes magazine] as the coolest city in America makes this seem an easy sell. But will it be?

 

Chicago unveils a long-awaited planto revamp the city's arts & culture scene

Shanika Gunaratna, WTTW [Chicago PBS station] culture blog, 7/25/12

After months -- some might say years -- of anticipation, the city of Chicago unveiled a draft of its official cultural plan last week. The plan -- with over a hundred ideas to strengthen the city's arts scene -- is anchored around a few themes: promoting lifelong learning in the arts; making the arts accessible to a wider audience and giving neighborhoods more ownership over cultural offerings; and retaining Chicago's creative talents against a brain drain that frequently drives artists to [other] cities for work. Some of the most interesting ideas in this document: Create tax incentives for creative start-ups; Offer low-cost health insurance for self-employed artists; Offer 30-year leases to artists living in cultural districts; Implement a new arts curriculum for all Chicago Public Schools, with art as a core subject; and Create incentives to convert "underutilized space" for artists' use. As Chicagoans start to get excited about the ideas on the table, Michelle Boone -- commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events -- emphasizes that this list is just a "framework of possibilities." So, what happens now? The city hosts a series of public town halls for feedback and criticism. Still, questions remain: namely, a perennial elephant in the room called funding. "We'll be shaking every tree," Boone says on how her department will make these ideas a reality. Within the plan are a few ideas: corporate sponsorship, raising the hotel occupancy tax, creating a special arts and culture tax, and using TIF funds. Also mentioned is a possible partnership with the controversial Infrastructure Trust, a public-private financing entity with five-member board of business people appointed by the mayor. In the end, the plan presents both cultural and financial opportunities for the city. Chicago's creative economy generates more than $2 billion annually, and this agenda is a chance to grow that number dramatically. "If ever we're ready for an actual plan for culture, it's now," Boone says. "[The goal here is to] position Chicago as the center of the universe in incubating creative talent."

 

Commentary: Want to make a creative city? Build out, not up, says Richard Florida

Interview by Neal Conan, National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program, 7/31/12

NPR: Urban density spurs innovation. But it turns out that some kinds of density are better than others. In The Wall Street Journal, Richard Florida wrote that the skyscrapers of Shanghai, quote, "often function as vertical suburbs, muting the spontaneous encounters that provide cities with so much of their social, intellectual and commercial energy." New York, he argues, is less dense but more creative.

FLORIDA: [T]here's so much of a rush to density. And as cities have come back...and as people have moved back to cities, there's this sense -- and it's not so much in New York or Boston or San Francisco. It's in building these hundreds of cities in the emerging economies that bigger is better. So the point was to try to...point out that density, of course, matters. And there is plenty of room for skyscraper districts... But when you look at where innovation and creativity and new ideas come from, they typically don't come from the skyscraper districts. They come from older neighborhoods with mixed-use buildings that have warehouses and industrial areas, and those are the areas...where people can mix and mingle and interact, combine and recombine. And that's where the spur for innovation and creativity comes from.

NPR: So as those big "vertical suburbs" go up in midtown, in New York and other cities around the world...can there be anything...to help along this innovation and creativity?

FLORIDA: Well, I'm not so worried about New York or even London, and London could certainly use a little bit more verticality to it. I think that...even when you pack density.... if you activate the street level -- and I think New York...is doing it right... Another example of this would be greater Miami, which has built...high-rise towers, has brought people back into the downtown core and has a culture and entertainment district and sports arena. But it has the Wynwood Arts corridor, where artist studios and galleries are very affordable. And the Design District, which has design companies, and now has a commercial renovation. So I think the best cities are a mix.... And it's important to preserve that diversity, not just build a homogenous city of skyscrapers or a homogenous suburb of sprawl.

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