Introduction: The Rise of the Creative Class
The emergence of a new social class, the creative class, is based fundamentally on the value of human intelligence, knowledge, and creativity. Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in 2000, takes on this term “creative” in a multitude of ways socially, culturally, and economically.
Human creativity, Florida determines, is the ultimate economic resource. The ability to develop new ideas and better ways of doing things is ultimately what raises productivity and thus living standards. One of the greatest transitions in America was the shift from an agricultural-based economy to the industrial age. This transition was based on natural resources and physical labor power. The transition we are undergoing now, Florida notes, is a shift from an industrial economy to a creative economy based on human intelligence, knowledge, and creativity (Florida).
The people that make up the creative class are the ones who are paid principally to do creative work as a living. They engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital. The core of the creative class include scientists, engineers, artists, musicians, designers, and knowledge-based professionals. It also includes an even broader range of creative people in business, law, finance, and health-care. In fact, the creative class is composed of approximately 30% of all Americans and accounts for nearly half of all wage and salary income in the United States, about $1.7 trillion (2000). The other social classes include the service class, which is made up of the cashiers, salespeople, police officers, food preparers, medical assistants, and administrative assistants and the working class, which includes the miners, welders, carpenters, truck drivers, production workers, and construction workers. The service economy is the support infrastructure of the creative age. The diagram below shows the allocation of people in each social class in the Cleveland area (Florida).
The three T’s for economic growth, Florida states, provides a model in which creative-seeking communities should base their investments and energy in. The first T, Technology, is measured by innovation and high-tech industry concentration. Talent, the second T, is measured not by human capital but by creative capital, which is talent measured functionally, by the numbers of people actually in creative occupations. Tolerance, the third T, is about places that are open and accepting and therefore have an edge in attracting different kinds of people and new ideas. The Tolerance Index is based on four measures, including the Gay Index, the Bohemian Index, the Melting Pot Index (the concentration of foreign-born people), and racial integration, which is used to capture how integrated rather than separated a community is throughout its internal geography (Florida).
Florida ranks a region’s creativity based on a model known as a creativity index, which establishes a rating system for a region’s ability to harness creative energy for long-run economic growth based on the 3 T’s of economic growth (Florida).
The Transformation of Everyday Life
American society is undergoing a transformation of everyday life that has changed from one that was typically based around manufacturing, service, and working sectors to one that is based on creativity. Creativity, in comparison to the other sectors, thrives in a different work environment. Florida compares the blue-collar and white-collar working sectors to the creative sector, which is no-collar. It is considered no-collar because the creative class includes a vast amount of individuals and professionals who demand the ability to learn and grow, shape the content of their work, control their own schedules and express their identities through work (Florida).
o The Experiential Lifestyle
We demand a lifestyle built around creative experiences. We are impatient with the strict separations that previously demarcated work, home and leisure. This is why live work communities are a good idea.
o The Time Warp
A whole new social construction of time is emerging. The old boundaries that told us when we should do something have faded into oblivion. Creative work requires long hours of intense concentration, punctuated by the need to relax, incubate ideas and recharge.
o The Creative Community
“Creative people have always gravitated to certain communities (…) that provide the stimulation, diversity and a richness of experiences that are the wellsprings of creativity” (Florida).
“In place of the tightly knit urban neighborhoods of the past or alienated and generic suburbs, we prefer communities that have a distinct character” (Florida).
This past semester I began my thesis writing on the Creative Class and Rustbelt Cities. The Following is the abstract from my paper:
Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class” recognizes the emergence of a new social class, the creative class, as the people who are paid principally to do creative work as a living. He goes so far as to state that human creativity is the ultimate economic resource and that all communities and community leaders should invest in creative resources and creative people. The Three T’s for Economic Growth, Florida states, recognizes technology, talent, and tolerance as the major factors for the development of economic growth. More recently, he has recognizes a fourth T for economic growth, Territorial Assets, as the key factor that draws people to a certain place. Also known as “Quality of Place,” Territorial Assets include the assets that make a certain place attractive for creative people. Thick labor markets, lifestyle, social interaction, diversity, and identity are some of these assets. When building a creative community, it is important to develop a strong people climate rather than simply a business climate.
The loss of manufacturing jobs caused Cleveland’s economy to struggle and the population to shrink substantially. The phenomenon of shrinking cities has caused planners and developers to think differently about planning in a way that is more honest and realistic for Rustbelt cities such as Cleveland that are struggling to regain population growth. Like Florida mentions, bottom-up community development strategies are important, but it isn’t the only strategy that planners and designers must consider. What is important is to establish a unique kind of creative class, which I title “The Rustbelt Creative Class.”
Even though Cleveland has experienced urban shrinkage and decline in the past several decades, there is a downtown revival emerging that due in part to the innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in places such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Youngstown. The Rustbelt revival is not experiencing new growth only because there is an abundance of cheap space. It’s about the authenticity of the post-industrial environment, particularly the prevalence of conflict.
Conflict, which is often associated with anger, tension and avoidance, should be seen as the driving force for community growth. The irony of conflict is that it “stirs us into observation and memory” and allows our minds to think creatively. The ability to create has long been tied to ones surroundings. In the case of Rustbelt Cities, these surroundings are characterized by the vacant and underutilized buildings and structures, the post-industrial parks and factory buildings, foreclosed homes and boarded-up storefronts, and patchwork of random buildings and land. This “patchwork” of contrast is the characteristic of a chaotic landscape: one that lacks an identity and is the outcome of urban decay, shrinkage, demolition and abandonment.
Cleveland’s growing arts community has embraced the conflicted environment and approached it in an artist way; recognizing and reusing once underutilized and vacant spaces and buildings, creating something out of nothing. The process of reusing vacant buildings does not have to be belabored, but can be done in phases and can be as simple as selecting one building for rehabilitation, as a model, then building up the number for rehabilitation. The redevelopment of vacant lots and structures has the potential to create more jobs, more recreational spaces, cultural opportunities and more vibrancy to an area that formerly was a dilapidated area.
This is the approach that planners and community leaders need to take: being able to embrace authenticity, enacting a strategy that accepts conflict in the environment. The traditional model for economic growth, one that is based on the idea of newness and maximum population growth, simply does not work for Rustbelt cities like Cleveland. The site selected will recognize these guidelines and serve as a model for creative communities in Rustbelt cities.
Keywords: Creative Class, Richard Florida, Conflict, Rustbelt, Cleveland, Artist District
Brandon E. Young