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Creative Places + Spaces: Collaborate or Die

Posted by Lisa Pasold / October 31, 2009

creative places spaces torontoThis week, the third-ever Creative Places + Spaces has been bending my brain with a near-perfect melange of speakers: the obvious brilliant locals like Richard Florida and Mayor Miller are on stage with a dash of international thinker-stars like Sir Ken Robinson and inspiring outside-the-box artists like Kat Cizek (filmmaker-in-residence at St Michael's Hospital), naked crowd photographer Spencer Tunick, and Cape Farewell artist-founder David Buckland.

Sir Ken RobinsonThe basic topic of discussion is "the collaborative city". Which is also the creative city. "And if you're interested in creativity, you should have a strategy for it," says education strategist Sir Ken Robinson. Which doesn't sound all that creative to me, but Robinson quickly pointed out that our assumption that intelligence is rational, and creativity irrational is really crazy--because clearly, creativity is intelligent. And we aren't teaching anyone to be creative, in our school system today. Robinson argues, "We need to make innovation a habit [because] we now have a climate crisis in human talent."

Richard Florida (who helped start the first Creative Places + Spaces with Jane Jacobs in 2003) agrees, and talked on Thursday about how our culture currently values creativity as display--whereas what we need is a culture that values creativity as work, as an approach that actively solves problems. This alone would radically improve our cities.Richard Florida

This point was beautifully illustrated by filmmaker Kat Cizek, talking about interventionist media (an idea I love). Her residency at St. Michael's Hospital was inspired by an earlier NFB project, Challenge for Change; her goal? "Not to make films about people but to make films with people." For example, one of her St. Mike's films has been screened at police stations around the city, leading to a real improvement in police emergency psychiatric interventions. Cizek is taking her work global with the new project, High Rise--can't wait to see it!

Artist David Buckland has been thinking big for a while--he became obsessed with climate change about a decade ago. His resulting project, Cape Farewell, has so far sent nine expeditions of scientists and artists, into the Arctic to raise the discourse about climate change. Buckland's starting question was: "How can we use climate change as a challenge that we can pick up and run with and be excited about?" He felt the scientists he was talking to weren't getting their urgent message to the public. Whereas artists, hey, artists communicate...when they're sufficiently inspired, they never shut up.

So Buckland started organizing sailboat voyages through the Arctic, travelling with writers like Ian McEwan (whose novel Solar, comes out next spring) and musicians like Laurie Anderson, Feist, and Martha Wainwright (oh, to sit in on that pickup band, when the boat went ashore in a tiny village in Greenland!) Buckland says, "It's not about climate change, it's about being human. We need a cultural shift."

creative places spaces toronto

creative places spaces toronto

This doesn't sound so radical, here, but try to picture this dialogue happening a room with 540 bureaucrats, administrators, and policy-makers. Make these people understand how crucial art is in energizing and inspiring the population, and our cities might actually improve. "The world needs an example of a city that works," says Richard Florida (Toronto-booster extraordinaire). "If we're going to build creative spaces and places, we need to do it here. There are very few places on earth that can make this happen."

creative places spaces toronto

Photos courtesy of Creative Places + Spaces/Artscape.



scottd / October 31, 2009 at 12:26 pm
Richard Florida "brilliant"? Snicker.
Christopher / October 31, 2009 at 12:29 pm
David Buckland's work is especially interesting, "...when [artists] are sufficiently inspired, they never shut up." How true and how essential. (And I too would love to be in on that pick-up jam session. Laurie Anderson!)
R / October 31, 2009 at 04:56 pm
This creativity mongering is akin to uncritical Web 2.0 boosterism - sound and fury signifying nothing.

warmflash / October 31, 2009 at 06:47 pm
“Toronto has defined itself—it’s not trying to emulate anywhere else, which is so important,” - Richard Florida

L.A. draws highly skilled Asians and San Francisco draws highly skilled gays, but D.C. draws highly skilled everybody -- gays, Latins, Asians, Africans, scientists and so on, ... The trick will be to avoid pricing ourselves out of that creativity.” - Richard Florida

“I think we do need more time off, but it's not a government issue. It needs to be a social thing. People need to realize that working all the time and ignoring families is not healthy.” - Richard Florida

Richard Florida is not just brilliant, he's he's a world class genius.

I've never seen such creative thinking and insight in all my years.

warmflash / October 31, 2009 at 06:50 pm
"The world needs an example of a city that works," says Richard Florida. This is just another shining example of his brilliant mind at work.

Someone told me he's moving to LA to host a cable talk show.

mdtoronto / October 31, 2009 at 10:49 pm
Cultural shift needed? - that ship has sailed, the education system by design has never encouraged what might be unique about an individual but squashes students into conformity. At the most basic levels of support, the City of Toronto fails to recognize that professional artists compete for poverty level wages (i.e.: grants).
For artists living in poverty, Toronto Social Services fails to recognize that employment in the cultural sector is almost exclusively short term or part-time, self-employment expenses are ineligible punishing people in the cultural sector then suggests that food banks are reasonable alternatives. Pathetic.
Lindsay / November 2, 2009 at 01:12 pm
Kat Cizek will be at the NFB Mediatheque this Friday at 1pm for a participatory workshop and screening. If you haven't seen her speak before this is a great opportunity. If you can't make the 1pm, there will be a screening of some of her films at 7pm. http://www.onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/mediatheque/schedule.php?id=1742
warmflash replying to a comment from mdtoronto / November 2, 2009 at 02:16 pm
mdtoronto is correct. And it's ironic. The school system is run by some of the most ultra liberal socialists in the world, yet, nothing could be more conformist than the education system they operate.

It's totally designed to make the individual conform.

I imagine in the depths of their socialism, they can not see this.

RationalCenter replying to a comment from warmflash / November 2, 2009 at 07:59 pm
A push for conformity is not a liberal or conservative issue - it's an organizational response. Almost any kind of organization, whether business, social, or government, is looking to solve problems. It's human nature to seek the most efficient and simplest (and cheapest) solutions possible. Conformity looks efficient to a system, and it's the seemingly natural course to take, whether you're choosing manufacturing standards or designing curriculum. However, it is also the embodiment of the H.L. Mencken quote, "For every problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong."
laurie jones / November 8, 2009 at 07:41 pm
American Apparel or Emperor's new clothes?
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