Buffalo Creative

A few weeks ago I'd asked Marc Odien of WNYmedia.net to record an episode of On Target - Preservation Primer - it was part of the Landmark Society's series on the 'Creative Class'. Just saw that he's captured the third installment of this series on video.

The series is based on the work of Richard Florida. His two books The Rise of the Creative Class (2003) and The Flight of the Creative Class (2005) are widely embraced.

While I've been encouraged by some recent real estate sales in the Artspace and Performing Art's impact areas - and my fingers are crossed that this activity, especially on Coe Place is indicitive of an emerging trend - I'm still cautious on long term trends and the economic activity generated by the arts. If the past is any guide to the future, I believe this guy got it right. He focused on his business and used that to build what has become one of the finest museums of modern art in the world, right here in Buffalo.
Just wondering if we're putting the cart before the horse. Joel Kotkin - a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and an historian of urban life - has a few sage words about this in a recent article - Rise of the Ephemeral City.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
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Cynthia Van Ness said...

David, you're confusing the institutionalization or end stage (which is what an art museum is) with the fermentation or beginning stage, which is when lots of ideas and energy are bubbling up and no one knows what will succeed and what will not.

I have not read his book, but I suspect that Florida is interested in how cities can incubate creative fermentation. I doubt he cares about the end stage, because once you have fermentation, society will inevitably institutionalize some of it and discard the rest.

Buffalo would not have the AKAG without the Albright fortune, but Albright would not have had his fortune or anything to hang on the walls of his museum without a city that supported creative thinking and fermentation, in business and in the arts.

b said...

I respectfully disagree with Cynthia's claim that the steel plant would not have succeeded without a city that "supported" the arts. What's your concrete reasoning for that, I wonder?

The arts are wonderful but in general they don't create significant wealth any more than a professional sports team creates wealth - some jobs, sure... but only a handful of people who get rich and not much spin-off.

The arts and sports are both pastimes - adding to the flavor of a city's life, for lack of a better word, but not creators of material wealth as is a steel plant.

The term "starving artist" derives its historical meaning because (generalizing again, admittedly) the arts don't generate much money. Arts are a net consumer of material wealth. Great fot the spirit and soul perhaps, but for the economy - not so much.

Craig of NorthCoast has written about this very topic (and addressed Mr. Florida's thoeries) in much more eloquently than I could ever do.

David, when you think and blog further about this, you might want to look up Craig's past posts that mention Mr. Florida and the creative class if you haven't seen them in the past. Very good food for thought.

fix buffalo said...


Bubbling up and fermentation? Sounds like something more to do with "moon-shine" than the economic development or the social conditions necessary to produce art. Even our favorite determinist, Karl Marx understands the economic base and social superstructure stuff.

It's like kid's sneakers. The kid doesn't have sneakers just because s/he is wearing them. The kid has sneakers because the parent decides to buy them. Or, the case with Carnegie and libraries. Some might argue - and some persuasively - that Carnegie's workers would have been better off receiving a higher wage rather than having Carnegie "steal" their "surplus value" invest and later in his life distribute a fortune to help create libraries.

This is not an argument against art, museums or libraries. (Family members and close friends are very involved.) Far from it. It's what b. and I assume Craig and others are questioning as what should be the primary focus for the area's economic revitalization and long term viability.

If someone would post a few links or studies showing how art creates jobs and contributes to our shrinking tax base, might be helpful.