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Research and Programmes

Culturelink review, no.32/November 2000 - contents - imprint - archive

A Cultural Approach to Developing the Creative City

by Charles Landry

The Creative City presents a new form of urban strategy making that goes beyond traditional planning. The book argues that imaginative capacity should be recognised as an urban asset and significant planning tool. By generating an environment where people are given greater scope to think, plan and act creatively, our cities can be made more liveable and vital. The challenge is to harness people's imagination, talent and knowledge. Creativity on its own does not provide the solution to urban problems: it only provides decision makers with an approach and an ideas bank for solutions to emerge. How does culture fit in?

Culture is more than an artwork

What makes the use of arts and culture in urban development successful? Surely more than placing a piece of public art in the city square or putting on a festival. We need to look for deeper reasons. The city is a complex work of art, a malleable artefact shaped by built projects and activities, reflecting the compromises, power play and aspirations of its citizens. Cities have personalities and emotions too, with feelings uplifted at one moment and depressed in the next. Conceived in this way, the city is a living organism, not a machine. The artistic way of finding taps to this tacit knowledge tries to bring urban conflicts and desires into the open. It may be a piece of public art in one instance, a community play in another, but most importantly it is a way of approaching problems. It is a frame of mind which questions rather than criticizes, which asks 'why is this so?' and is not content to hear 'it always has been like this'. Artists look for common threads amidst the seemingly disparate situations, bringing together unthought of combinations that may solve a problem. They look at situations in an integrated, holistic and lateral way. They think flexibly, but with a focus. As David Perkins notes, 'creative people work at the edge of their competency, not at the centre of it', thus opening out new possibilities. It is different from science, which proceeds logically and step by step, as our land use and transport planners are taught. Both approaches have their role in urban development, but it is only the latter that is seen as legitimate.

The power of cultural heritage

An urban culture reflects what citizens over time see as valuable, sustaining and inspiring. This may be expressed in heritage and traditions. Why, in the rush for change, do we find solace and inspiration in buildings, artefacts, skills, values and social rituals of the past? Is it because in a globalizing world we seek stability and local roots? Cultural heritage connects us to our histories, our collective memories, it anchors our sense of being and can provide a backbone to face the future. The valued past is the sum of our past creativity and its results keep society going and moving forward. Looked at from this perspective, the resources of the past can help pre-figure, inspire and give confidence. But living in the past alone is not enough for cities to adapt to changing conditions. Remaining in the past, they face inexorable decline. For cities to flourish they need the creativity of today's citizens, who, through their imagination, meet peoples' desire for inspiration and aspirations. Historically, for cities to survive, they rely on creativity that pushes at the boundaries of tradition. But this must be done without erasing memory as this would fracture peoples' sense of their identity and place.

This is why the defunct power station that changes into the Tate Modern can be uplifting, as can also an under-used Baptist chapel in Bradford transformed into an Indian restaurant, or an old bankrupt mill that turns into a shopping mall or a redundant leather works that becomes a cyber centre. They capture the mood of the post-industrial age, where increasingly wealth in cities is created less by what we produce and more by how we use our brains and add value through knowledge and imagination. Cities now have one crucial resource - their people. Human cleverness and creativity are replacing location, natural resources and market access as urban assets. We need to provide the conditions to unleash this imagination.

Culture and distinctiveness

Culture is everything that shows that a place is unique and special and each aspect of distinctiveness is a resource. What is unique is reinvented daily, be it a refurbished building or an adaptation of an old skill for modern times, the telling of a story of who we are or celebrating achievement. We need to remember that today's classics and traditions were yesterday's innovations. Looked at in this way, each city can have a niche and thus make something out of seemingly nothing. It can help develop or promote ugly cities, cold or hot cities, or marginal places. The realization dawned on me that each city with persistence could be a world centre for something - Freiburg for eco-research, New Orleans for the blues, or Hay-on-Wye for bookselling. We can learn a great deal from the Italians, renowned for their feste or sagre, which celebrate whatever resource their region is known for from mushrooms and ham to pasta and literature.

Thus, cultural resources become the raw materials of the city but also its value base, its assets replacing coal and steel. Creativity is the method of exploiting these resources and helping them grow. The task of urban strategists is to recognize and manage these responsibly. Culture thus should shape the technicalities of urban planning rather than being seen as a marginal add-on to be considered once the important planning questions like housing, transport and land-use have been dealt with. By contrast, a culturally informed perspective should determine how planning as well as economic development or social affairs should be addressed, using undiscovered potential for positive urban purposes. This can lead to a new form of urban asset audit. By taking a broad sweep of a city's economy, social potential and political traditions, we can assess how cultural assets can be turned to economic and social advantage.

Imaginative connections

A cultural approach to urban strategy involves looking at each functional area culturally. For example, in health we can ask: Are there indigenous health practices we can build on that might foster preventative care? In social affairs: Are there mutual aid traditions that can be adapted to provide support structures for drug users or lonely elderly people; or alternatively to kickstart the setting up of the increasingly popular local exchange trading schemes (LETS) where people barter skills and services? In terms of job creation we could undertake an audit of older craft skills in a city and assess how they can be attuned to the needs of the present. We could participate in the enthusiasm of the unemployed youth and see whether economically viable businesses can be created from their pastimes. To attract tourists, we could scan history and traditions and seek to rediscover local cuisine or craft potential that could help brand the city. One could invent celebrations or congresses that chime well with a city's aspirations for the future, yet build from the soil of the past. Educational institutes can be looked at afresh to assess whether circumstances are providing triggers for action. Derry in Northern Ireland, for example, used the fact that it was a centre of 'troubles' to create the world renowned Centre for Conflict Resolution. Old skills in carpentry or metal working can be linked with new technology to satisfy a new market for household goods or traditions of learning and debate can be used to market a city as a conference capital. We should even consider the 'senses' of the city from its colours, sounds, smells and visual appearance and topography; we should take a broad sweep through a city's mutual aid traditions, associative networks and social rituals and see how they could make a city more cohesive, competitive and liveable.

Viewed in this light, any facet of culture, a historical or contemporary event, or even a quirky circumstance, can be turned into an opportunity. Some of these are unexpected. The problems and potential of light was the resource I focused on in Helsinki, creating a festival that deals with social cohesion, invention and image; others, as in Manchester, have used a style of music or sound to help brand the city, transform its image and develop a cultural industry; typical local food, such as ham in Parma, has been used to alter the fate of the city forever. A tradition of running festivals can be developed, using the core skill of organizing to become an all-year congress industry, as in Adelaide. A political tradition can be drawn on and reinvented, as happened in the Stroud area in South Cotswolds. Alternative communities have existed for over 100 years, whose core ideas have now been recreated and have fostered new up-to-date experiments, such as the first UK electricity company using alternative energy sources and the development of permaculture which has a strong following. Even one of the local petrol stations, the epitome of pollution, has a green shop.

Culture clearly offers a platform for creative action, providing possibilities for a city to sustain itself across time. Using culture as a resource does not imply only thinking of culture in economic, social or instrumental terms, although that is a part of it. It involves thinking through its panoply of influences. Enriched by a sensitivity to the city's culture, policy makers have at their disposal a pool of potential measures to help develop the city in a holistic way, with each uncovered resource representing something that can add value to its objectives and aspirations.

Creating synergies

By placing cultural resources at the centre of policy-making, synergies are created with any type of public policy - in the fields ranging from economic development to housing, health, education, social services, tourism, urban planning, architecture, townscape design, and cultural policy itself. The intrinsic connection-building, crossover and boundary blurring process encourages innovation and creates an urban planning approach focused on local distinctiveness. The result may be surprising: an artist may contribute to innovations in the social services department and a social worker might run the outreach service of a theatre, or an environmentalist might run the business development agency. The key issue is not specialization, but the core competence - the capacity to think open-mindedly, laterally across disciplines, and entrepreneurially. Artists at their best possess these qualities.

Civic creativity and ethos

To think like this, policy makers need practice and retraining and a focus on civic creativity. It involves imaginative problem solving applied to public good objectives. The aim is to generate a continual flow of innovative solutions to problems which have an impact on the public realm. Civic creativity is the capacity of public officials and others oriented to public good aims to effectively and instrumentally apply their imaginative faculties to achieving a 'higher value within a framework of social and political values'. It is creativity that negotiates and balances a harmony between self-interest and collective desires. Context determines what this might be. In one instance it may be the need to deal with urban violence innovatively, in another raising the income levels of the excluded, in a third creating a sense of beauty in urban design or inventing new forms of incentives to make social mixing within housing estates desirable. Civic creativity can only occur in a changed organisational culture, one that is predisposed to risk taking.

It requires an ethos - a way of saying this is the way we do things here. Ethos helps re-create coherence. An ethos is a very powerful tool: a guide to priorities and resources, a common identity and purpose that binds people together. It links the visionary and the practical. There are three layers that need to be coherent. The meta or grand strategy of ethos, vision, ethics and transformation; the core strategy of management, control, rules, budgets, initiatives and monitoring; the base strategy of routine, repetitive operations. In this way urban development can proceed by creating and adding value and values simultaneously.

We need planning that incorporates different perspectives to gain more penetrative insights. By seeing through diverse eyes, the potential and hidden possibilities from business ideas to improving the mundane are revealed. Traditional urban planning has been dominated by land-use, transport and engineering specialists, which is fine as far as it goes. The new modes of planning should rely much more on the insights of local historians, psychologists, cultural activists, social affairs people, lateral thinkers, and those who understand the global economic dynamics. Such a vision may be driven by notions such as sustainable and equitable development or better design, aesthetics and local distinctiveness, or even a desire to make a community happy - a language long lost in the political arena.

Based on The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators by Charles Landry.

Published by Earthscan, 120 Pentonville Road, London N1 9BR, United Kingdom, tel.: 44+ (0) 207-278-0433; fax: 44+ (0) 207-278-1142; e-mail: earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk

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The National Cultural Policy Framework - Lesotho

Government of Lesotho, Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture
Maseru, 1999/2000, 39 pp.

The National Cultural Policy Framework has been developed as a conscious effort of the Lesotho Government to recognize and appreciate the immeasurable value of culture for national development. The document has been drawn with inputs from relevant stakeholders and interest groups through all stages of its development, following specific objectives in mind:

  • To register a formal recognition of the existence of a national culture, subcultures, norms and cults, cultural agents and agencies, and their importance for nationhood and national development;
  • To facilitate the establishment and strengthening of formal mechanisms for government support of all cultural endeavours, agencies, agents and activities;
  • To secure a definite undertaking from all cultural agents to work towards self-realization and self-regeneration motivated by a quest for national development and national identity.

In its finished form, the document will serve as a foundation for all cultural policy decisions for the present and, possibly, for more generations yet to come.

This document was developed in response to the need to have a national cultural policy, to affirm and nurture national cultural heritage, and because of the existence of some problems, such as a lack of clear guidelines for cultural action, deficient, impracticable and/or obsolete legislation, as well as a lack of appropriate future-oriented projections of cultural development.

The document thus proposes a broad framework for cultural policy as well as a few clear ameliorative actions to redress identified problems. Some of the proposed actions include:

  • Enactment of new laws, such as the proposed legislation for public libraries, art galleries, and exhibition centres;
  • The founding and funding of the proposed Lesotho Arts and Cultural Council;
  • Revision of outdated legislation;
  • A more systematic inter-departmental cooperation between ministries on matters of culture;
  • The founding and funding of regional arts and crafts centres;
  • Re-organization of existing cultural institutions and agencies.

The document provides a broad view of legislative cultural policy, naming the existing laws, those which need to be reviewed, and those which should cover areas for which legislation is not yet in place.

A chapter dedicated to National Values and Identity points to many negative connotations of nationhood and, therefore, proposes corrective action to be initiated.

Concerning languages, Sesotho and English have constitutionally been declared the official languages of Lesotho, and they are the languages of instruction at the primary school level. Measures have to be put in place, however, to encourage individuals and organizations to publish and disseminate Sesotho literature in written and oral form in the multiplicity of available disciplines, with a view to promoting Sesotho as a medium of instruction at higher levels than the primary school.

The Basotho religion has been a victim of misinterpretation by Western religions, which have labelled it paganism. In order to create a harmonious coexistence, the Department of Culture will endeavour to promote the establishment of interactive committees, comprising conventional religious leadership on the one hand and traditional cultural leaders on the other.

The document recognizes the importance of the media and will endeavour to have all public media transmitted in forms that are accessible to all members of society.

Further, it is proposed that there be established the Lesotho Arts and Cultural Council as a body corporate with an express intent to bring equity to the arts and culture dispensation. Its principal task will be to distribute public funds to artists, cultural institutions and NGOs.

In the area of education and training, the government acknowledges the importance of arts, culture and heritage education, both formal and community-based (traditional) structures.

Regional arts and crafts centres are proposed to be established with the aim of improving the quality of people's lives at the local level.

The policy of international cooperation should cover all proximate and remote neighbours. Cooperation with South Africa needs no emphasis, but cooperation in cultural affairs definitely needs some recasting. Also, cooperation needs to go beyond the bonds of neighbourhood and extend to regional, continental and ultimately to global relations. Thus, the need for cultural cooperation with SADC appears more sensible immediately after bilateral cooperation with South Africa.

The last chapter is dedicated to Cultural Research, which should be translated into local languages in order to enhance greater access to resources.

The document contains the list of relevant books and documents used in the preparation of this report, a list of relevant legislative documents, and a list of participants in the project.

For more information, please contact: Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, P.O.Box 52, Maseru, Lesotho.

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The Metropolis Project

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

The Metropolis Project was conceived in 1994 and launched in 1996, motivated by the recognition that there existed a pressing need to come to grips with the challenges and to capitalize on the opportunities associated with migration and the integration of ethnic and religious minorities in large cities around the world.

The project was shaped by the understanding that for migration and integration policies to succeed, they would need the active and coordinated support of all levels of government, NGOs, the private sector, and the public at large.

The goal of the project is to improve policies for managing migration and diversity in major cities by:

  • Enhancing academic research capacity;
  • Focusing academic research on critical policy issues and policy options; and
  • Developing ways to facilitate the use of research in decision-making.

Metropolis has been structured as a partnership with both domestic and international components. It seeks to increase the amount of research done in the immigration and diversity fields; to create opportunities for significant interchange among decision-makers, researchers and NGOs; to encourage discussions that go well beyond the mere stating of positions, descriptions, and advocacy; and to provide settings for problem solving using the best information and analysis.

Nationally, the Metropolis Project is supported by a consortium of federal departments and agencies (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Health Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, Statistics Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Solicitor General Canada).

Four Metropolis Centres of Excellence have been created, each a partnership of major universities, situated in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver (See Culturelink no. 31/August 2000, p. 105).

Project activities in Canada include more than 200 research projects, three major national conferences, five research domain seminars, and numerous other seminars and workshops.

The international project involves a partnership of policy makers and researchers from over 20 countries and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, such as the European Commission, UNESCO, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organization for Migration, and the Migration Policy Group.

Key international activities include annual high level conferences, comparative policy-research seminars, international comparative research projects, development and maintenance of active networks of policy makers, researchers, and non-governmental organizations.

Two-way communications between researchers and decision makers are fostered by Metropolis through conferences, workshops, seminars and other face-to-face exchanges. These provide participants with opportunities to engage each other in intense conversations, to exchange information, and to work through policy problems and issues together. In addition, the project has created an award winning, interactive network of websites, co-managed between universities and government agencies. More traditional methods including newsletters, bulletins, journals and other publications are also employed extensively: for instance, the first issue of the Journal of International Migration and Integration, Winter 2000, carries worthy research papers on various presentday or historic issues concerning migration.

For more information, either about the project or valuable bulletins and journals, please contact: The Metropolis Project Team, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 365, Laurier Ave West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1, Canada, tel.: 613 957 5979; fax: 613 957 5968; e-mail: dominique.groulx@9522apx.cina.cic.x400.gc.ca; http://www.canada.metropolis.net

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The Graduate Programme in Cultural and Media Studies

University of Natal, Durban, South Africa

The new Graduate Programme in Cultural and Media Studies at the University of Natal, offers an MA in Media Studies with an African and Third World emphasis. Core courses offered include Political Economy of the Media, Media, Development and Democracy, Sociology of the Media, Theories of Meaning and Ideology, and options such as Narrative Film and TV, and Documentary Film and Visual Anthropology, amongst others. Skills courses include Educational Multimedia and Development, Desktop Publishing, and Video Production. The programme is designed for media workers seeking theoretical refreshment in their professional practices. There is a strong emphasis on research, strategic thinking, and problem-solving.

Research thesis MA and Ph.D in media and development and public health communication

The new programme now also offers thesis MAs and Ph.Ds under the auspices of its newly established Development, Media and Arts Research Unit. This Unit is geared towards action research relating to public health communication (using print and broadcast media, participatory drama, etc.) and related development support communication issues in the Southern African context. The Unit works with schools and grassroots community organisations, especially on life-skills and HIV/AIDS prevention and education. The research is project based and designed to teach senior students to work in the field on actual projects, benefiting communities in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Ph.D in African media and cultural studies

The programme continues to offer Ph.D study in media and cultural studies in general. Candidates can expect to work in a vibrant community of graduate students drawn from all over Africa and the world. Many are professionals who have returned to university for a year or more.

Research themes

Students are grouped into research teams studying a variety of resourced themes, such as political economy of the Southern African media, community broadcasting, cultural tourism and visual anthropology, public memory, African cinema, broadcasting and media policy, public health communication, media and development, cultural studies in Africa, and so on.

The programme relies on a dedicated lecturing faculty/staff who teach at graduate levels only within the Faculty of Human Sciences' newly established School of Graduate Studies.

For further information, please contact: Professor Keyan Tomaselli, Graduate Programme in Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, Durban 4041, South Africa, tel.: + 27(31) 260-2505; fax: + 27(31) 260-1519; e-mail: ccms@mtb.und.ac.za; govends@mtb.und.ac.za

Please consult a very extensive web page for further information. http://www.und.ac.za/und/ccms

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FUTURARIUM School of Design Architecture Art

2000-2001 Programme

The School of Design Architecture Art FUTURARIUM (See Culturelink no. 30/April 2000, p. 51.) announces its 2000-2001 Programme. The courses are open to everyone interested in architecture, design, art, as well as related creative fields, who are completing a degree or diploma programme, or who have entered the professional design world. It is a full-time programme held in Milan, Italy, with compulsory attendance. The course is composed of three 3-month sessions for one academic year. The following are the subjects to be taught in the course:

  • The autobiography is out of site;
  • The city: a user's guide;
  • New cannibalism;
  • Theatre on the skin;
  • Defining aesth-et(h)ics;
  • Design that's a little crazy;
  • The sirens of midnight;
  • Optical illusion;
  • Objects for the body;
  • Monuments for non-men;
  • Generative design;
  • Incredible strange music;
  • Animated environments; and
  • Homes for the homeless.

Besides the 'traditional' Master's course, NEWeb Design courses have been added from January 2001 to deal with the exploding area of Net culture and communications.

For more information, please contact: School of Design Architecture Art, Via Piranesi 10, 20137 Milan, Italy, tel.: +39 02 715467; fax: +39 02 76119300; e-mail: futurarium@radiosity.it; http://www.futurarium.com

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Bauhaus Kolleg Programme: Event City

In September 1999, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation launched a programme to analyze, study and design spaces for urban experiences(See Culturelink no. 29/November 1999, p. 32). Spread over several years, this programme provides a substantial framework for the activities of the Bauhaus Kolleg.

From September 2000 to September 2001, the programme will focus on the Event City and the changes that the city and architecture are undergoing in the event society.

The second Bauhaus Kolleg will look at how urban fabric and architecture are transformed in the event city. It will endeavour, through theory, architectural design and artistic practice, to develop blueprints for a heterogeneous and ramified event-city architecture, considering the current reshaping of the urban pattern.

For more information or to apply, please contact: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Gropiusallee 38, D-06846 Dessau, Germany, tel.: +49 (0) 340 6508 0; fax: +49 (0) 340 6508 226; e-mail: besuch@bauhaus-dessau.de; http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de

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Hungarian Multicultural Center

The Hungarian Multicultural Center, Inc. (HMC) is a non-profit organization. Its principal focus is an international residency programme to which artists from around the world are invited. The goal is to provide a supportive community with uninterrupted time to create and exhibit. The residencies offer participants a unique opportunity to interact with other artists representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

The HMC invites applications for a one-month stay in a studio at Balatonfured on Lake Balaton (50 miles from Budapest). Approximately fourteen artists will be invited for the period June 28 - July 25, 2001.

For more information, please contact: Hungarian Multicultural Center, Inc. P.O.Box 141374, Dallas, TX 75214, USA, e-mail: bszechy@mail.smu.edu