Thursday, October 04, 2007

Creativiy and Community

I've been doing some varied reading over the past several weeks and, though it was not intentional, I find that some of the same threads keep coming together in a way that makes me wonder about the books I selected, both now and in the past.

If I go back a few years, I remember going to hear Dr. Richard Florida speak about his book, The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida's thesis is that the communities who thrive, who ultimately "win" in economic competitions are the same communities that have a well developed community of creative people: artists, musicians, thinkers, scientists. These are all people who do not automatically conform to the structures of suburban bliss and are more accustomed to doing things in their own way. Of course, Florida has turned this into a consulting business.

I only reference that because I see a reflection of that idea in a Brooklyn (NY) based blog, Atlantic Yards Report. Blogger Norman Oder attended a panel discussion on the subject "Is NY losing is soul?" and gave us an informative recap.
Where's the soul?

Tocci suggested the city’s soul is made of artists and small businesses, and from her perch as president and group publisher at TONY, she sees a growing amount of anger about affordability. Darren Walker, a VP of the Rockefeller Foundation (the major funder of the exhibit and, a half-century ago, of Jacobs), noted the city’s growing inequality and unprecedented decline in its African-American population.
This panel was connected with an exhibit entitled Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York.
Jacobs was an urbanist best known for here landmark 1961 book Death and Life of Great American Cities. Throughout the Wikipedia article on Jacobs, you read the theme that she hated expressways and loved neighborhoods. Then, it is not surprising that I read the following in her last (2006) book, Dark Age Ahead. which I am reading now.
Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities. Highways and roads obliterate the places they are supposed to serve, as for example highways feeding the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge wiped out most of the formerly large Bay Ridge community in Brooklyn. (Is this so different from West Oakland today?)
Through this there are a couple of themes emerging. One is that creativity needs communities, at least no more expensive than middle class can afford. So, the load falls unevenly on different segments of our population. As Walker suggested above, it is urban populations of color that are in decline.

In a post at Green Commons today, I discussed the effect that undeclared big name candidates were having on the Green Party Presidential nomination. The focus was on Cynthia McKinney as her status seems to change with the group that she is addressing.

I would like to turn some of our attention to Jared Ball's candidacy, as it appears to me that he is addressing some of the issues raised by Jacobs, and Darren Walker.
It is time to build a genuine populist party, one built on the proper politics of those who, like Kwame Ture once made clear, are no longer willing to accept the lesser of evil because, “we will not vote for evil, period.”

To that end we are developing a campaign which seeks to break convention by centering attention and focus on culture, those most oppressed and those who have long since given up on the vote and are looking for a new politics and new organizations. We are working with “the mayor of DC hip-hop” Head-Roc and others to provide a hip-hop and progressive artist tour which will reach out to the Indigenous, Black, Latino and poor communities who will help us develop new bases of support for the Green Party.

It appears to me that Jared would have been very comfortable sitting down with Jane Jacobs and that is a plus. It is obvious that he understands the connection between creative artists and community and that is another plus.

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