John Eger

John Eger

Economist Edward Glaeser once said, “Cities are so fascinating because they play to mankind’s greatest gift, which is our ability to learn from other people.”

They are places also where you raise your children, develop your sense of right and wrong, learn about yourself and your fellow man. Importantly, they are the places where attitudes about life and values and politics converge and where new ideas take root.

Now, perhaps more than ever, cities are places where the crucial incubators of innovation are formed. Now more than ever Art and Culture Clusters are vital to renewal and reinvention.

In the wake of globalization the challenge America faces in the wake of global competition is daunting. Globalization 3.0, first coined by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is here. As Friedman has written, The World is Flat. Outsourcing and offshoring have entered our lexicon of new words and we are suffering what economists are euphemistically calling a “jobless recovery.” We don’t know exactly how many jobs are lost from offshoring. But this shift of high tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century.

There is a worldwide race for broadband Internet service because, as we know, in the new economy – an economy in which creativity and innovation are the benchmarks of success, indeed survival – you need bandwidth, the broadband Internet that serves as the basis of wealth and well being in the Age of Innovation.

Yes, the bandwidth in the ground is important; so too, is the bandwidth in people’s heads. And as we are beginning to understand – slowly – creativity and innovation are key to our success and survival.

But you cannot have creative communities without creative people, and you cannot have creative people without creative communities. In other words, in this new age of innovation, an age that requires creativity in some abundance, you need to meet the challenges of a whole new economy head on, or find yourself and your community cut off from the main stream of economic development

The hearse is at the back door of America as we know it. Either we make the changes we must in our communities or the greatest experiment we know – America – fails.

Renewal of our communities requires that we encourage Art and Culture Districts to flourish.

These districts, usually found on the periphery of a city center, are intended to create a critical mass of art galleries, dance clubs, theaters, art cinemas, music venues, and public squares for performances. More often, such places attract restaurants, cafes, and retail shops.

More often, they are also attracting the so-called creative worker, with housing units and offices catering, obviously, to people who live and work in the area, but open to anyone who wants the amenities of an arts district and a highly sustainable, livable community.

In fact, as some developers believe, it will be Mecca for scientists, students, engineers, artists, designers, and architects, whose economic function and personal passion are to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.

Many projects also include EcoDistricts with “green roofs,” community gardens, edible landscaping, and farmers’ markets…reducing the neighborhood’s carbon footprint while saving long-term energy costs and creating healthy environments for workers and residents.

More and more now cities and towns across America are thinking about such renewal as one way to insure the city attracts, nurtures, and retains the creative workforce it needs to succeed in the new global economy.

At a time when creativity and innovation have become key indicators of success in the new knowledge based economy, renewal and reinvention is a vitally important measure of how a community is meeting the challenges of the new, knowledge based, truly global, economy.

2 Responses to “Renewal of Our Cities for the Age of Innovation”

  1. Even with a great Cultural District, Pittsburgh is missing its Percent for Art program, and we are now petitioning for the enforcement of Pittsburgh’s Percent for Art law. This law has lain dormant since 1977. We are also advocating for the law’s expansion to ensure equity, fairness and transparency in how these public art funds are spent and in how government contracts for the design and construction of public art are given. This expansion includes the Sports and Exhibition Authority keeping its promise to pay for public art honoring the Hill District at its new Consol Energy Center arena in the lower Hill. The Hill is an African American neighborhood that is as important to American culture as is Harlem. This is an opportunity to right a historic wrong. When the first arena, the Civic Arena, was built, the Hill’s thriving economic center was plowed under. PLEASE SIGN AND PROMOTE THE PETITION: http://bit.ly/PGH4Art

  2. I disagree strenuously, but respectfully, with Carolyn Speranza. We need creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in our communities. Having the hand out to government actually hurts this. Monies go to those connected or in favor with the current power structure, not to those that are embraced by consumers of music, art, dance, crafts etc. We don’t need government as an intermediary in our consumption of Art.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.