Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, PhD Urban Planning from Columbia, is Associate Professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development, University of Southern California. Her expertise is in economic development, cultural economy, social networks, and urban growth.
In a book that aims to find out how New York’s vital (much more so than the FIRE industries) creative sector operates, Currid provides us four lessons about arts and culture: (1) they matter to economic develpment, (2) work within social milieus, (3) work best when densest, and (4) “work as a unified whole” (184).
She provides a history of the city’s meteoric rise to global cultural capital and establishes that its real distinction as a global city rests on its creativity; moreover, that the region has managed to build on and expand its global advantage. This primacy has been achieved and is maintained by the cultural industries “scene,” the “very work oriented” (von Furstenberg, as cited on 79) social world that is not a “spillover” or byproduct of the creative sector’s operations, but the actual system wherein nightlife locales act as cultural producers’ workplaces.
Creative exchange locations, “nodes,” operate on two levels. They are spaces for transmission/presentation of the work and as spaces for the creative subcultures to gather and trade ideas and, when lucky, get gatekeepers’ favorable attention. Being social, cultural producers circulate ideas, attribute value to goods and services, and allocate jobs and skills through the economy.
The cultural economy upholds: (1) the unique and synergistic interrelations between the various cultural industries, (2) that its collaboration and shared risk promotes cultural goods’ commodification in the global market, and (3) “its diverse process by which creative goods are reviewed and valued” (115). This review process itself exhibits three phenomena: creative goods are valorized by gatekeepers (Becker’s  aestheticians), broadly believed to have the power to attribute worth; attainment of success is generally linked to ongoing credibility, again something bestowed by gatekeepers; and both valorization and credibility are linked to having informal, weak social ties, themselves not necessarily tied to one’s artistic ability.
Finally, Currid asserts that if NYC policymakers recognize the power of the scene and its requisite geographical clustering, they should abandon the clumsy and counter-productive policies in favor of: accrediting creativity, supporting where creativity happens, giving thoughtful tax incentives and public funding, and rethinking the current artists-in-residence policy.