on being provocative
When Teresa Crea invited me to the Thinking Through The City Incubating Creativity Forum for the City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters, she suggested that I might like to be a provocateur. I like rocking the boat as much as the next person, but I felt that what the council is trying to achieve didn’t need that much provocation. Entering the ring of creative and digital industries through an engagement with community, business and creative practitioners seems eminently sensible. Of course that is not exactly what Teresa meant, but as it turned out it was not a role that was hugely necessary on the night. The conversations that developed during the forum, while diverse, had strong themes that demonstrated a real readiness to embrace a new way of thinking about how arts and creativity can work with business. This progressive conversation also served to highlight some of the less imaginative ways of thinking that have been plaguing a deeper engagement between creativity, community and business.
So to being provocative – one big missing element of the evening was business. Not creative business, because they were well represented, along with local and state government and government and nongovernment cultural agencies, but business not directly connected with the creative realm seemed absent. This was as unfortunate for those businesses not attending, as for those that did, because building a unique sense of creative industries will mean being inclusive of businesses that don’t see themselves as having any need for creative practice and getting them to understand how they benefit from creative business and creative community activity. What the evening did highlight was the significant, international standard of local creative people that doesn’t get the recognition their reputations would indicate. This is an almighty community resource for both culture and business, but business needs to know how to work with this resource as much as creative practitioners need to know how to work with the commercial.
Some of the strongest themes were brought out by Eamonn Vereker, owner of the glass blowing studio where the event was held. Eamonn is someone who has learned through hard won experience what is needed to maintain creativity while running a business. He has developed a virtual team to handle different aspects of the business, allowing him to do the thing that creates value in the first place; glass blowing. He has learned enough about business to understand the gaps in his skills and interest and what is best for his studio. The big need he pointed to in developing creative industries was mentoring; this is a peer to peer education around a real business and a great practical starting point for demonstration the mutule benefit in linking business with creative practice. Sculptor Andrew Stock followed up with another crucial progressive notion, that art, while fulfilling its cultural and creative ends needs to think of itself in business terms as well. This is the idea that there is no dichotomy between art and business and that any enmity between the two is an artificial creation whose time has passed.
This paints a very interesting picture for how the City of Norwood, Payneham and St. Peters can do creative industries different to other attempts around Australia and the world. If we start from an understanding that creative practitioners want to work with business, then some of the more moribund ideas raised (that’s being provocative) can be side stepped. The idea that the council can provide a gallery space, or studio space is not going to resolve the problems in developing a truly creative industries hub. What is required is a brokering of relationships between local business and local creative people to achieve both business and creative ends. Often these groups want the same thing, but have difficulty in speaking the same language. The benefits arise from these very differences, but this also means relationships don’t just happen; they need to be managed and encouraged. If you want a space, how about somewhere businesses and creative practitioners can develop projects that have both creative and business outcomes. These spaces can be a virtual; it is the relationships and the sharing of knowledge and approaches that are important. The council could encourage virtual teams where a number of business with complementary skills, business interests and networks can work together to create new value through working with the creativity in the community. I think we have moved beyond the idea of taking art away from our daily lives in galleries, or some type of sheltered workshop (that may be a bit provocative) to a much more mature relationship between creativity, business, culture and community. To me, creative practice is where new value and wealth is created and getting the full range of creative practice working meaningfully with business is the challenge, but success means we are all better off and I don’t think that is a provocative idea.