Tag Archives: currid

Currid, E. and Williams, S. (2010). The geography of buzz: art, culture and the social milieu in Los Angeles and New York. _Journal of Economic Geography_, 10(3):423.

Sarah Williams, MCP from MIT, is Co-Director of Spatial Information Design Lab and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). She researches the intersection of technology and the urban realm, with a particular focus on using mobile computing to better understand urban spaces.

The authors, using a large, unique dataset from the industry’s gold standard in event media coverage, Getty Images, study the social milieu specific, ungeneralizable ethnographies (Lloyd, 2005), and the large-scale commodification of cultural production simultaneously across geographies. They have five findings that substantiate the belief that “buzz” (Storper & Venables, 2004) is not limited just to the cultural economy.

  1. Art’s social consumption is “not spatially random” (3); rather, cultural events take place “within very narrow geographic spaces” (ibid) and less popular “cultural nodes” cluster around the primary ones, presumable for “spillover benefits” (ibid).
  2. Following Molotch’s (2002, 2003) “place in product” concept, popular places reinforce their own desirability.
  3. Locations with statistically higher rates of event occurrence, “event enclaves” are typical across all cultural sectors.
  4. Just as iconic buildings are used to garner publicity for events, it’s as likely they become iconic for their unique capacities to host megaevents — mundane logistics matter.
  5. And just as the social milieus and cultural events cluster, so do the media that cover them. There are a “finite number of places that the media documents over and over again” (21), thereby reinforcing the prestige of certain events and places above others, thus strengthening the virtuous circle that the popular events will be covered b the proximate media outlets.
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Currid, E. (2010). Symposium Introduction—Art and Economic Development: New Directions for the Growth of Cities and Regions. _Journal of Planning Education and Research_, 29(3):257-261.

In this symposium introduction, Currid identifies the scholarly subtopics and various authors’ findings regarding arts and economic development, as well as themes common to all of them.

For the scholarly subtopics: (1) there exists an “uncomfortable subnarrative” (259) that while the arts might help places flourish, those newly-minted places might not help the artists; (2) social capital and solidarity are “unintended benefits” of the arts; (3) there is a tension between economic growth and cultural legacy/historic preservation; (4) some telecommunications-enabled artists are still able to cluster in specific cities; (5) that even in cities with vastly different geographical urban forms, the arts co-locate in likewise formations, “around high-value infrastructure” (259); (6) that the success of a new flagship cultural institution hinges on specific contextual factors — the best projects express the area’s own artistic “distinction” (Markusen & Schrock, 2006); (7) arts subsidies should not underestimate the stickiness of cultural industries — revenue and job growth is in fact negatively impacted in states with film subsidies; and (8) we still don’t know if cultural planning is best served by housing, economic development, or cultural policymaking.

And the recurring findings: (1) most cultural policy is city, not state-driven; (2) said cultural policy is implemented by city planners, not urban designers or cultural planners (though they might be better suited); and (3) we still lack a concrete causal link between arts and economic development.

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Currid, E. (2007). How art and culture happen in New York. _Journal of the American Planning Association_. 73(4).

Using recent scholarship on the great value creative capital provides to postindustrial economies (Florida, 220; Lloyd, 2006; Markusen & Schrock, 2006) as her starting point, Currid explores the exact mechanism by which the creative industries operate and thrive in New York. Subsequent to 80 in-depth interviews with cultural producers and gatekeepers found primarily through snowballing, Currid determined that “being there” matters in material ways. Attendance at nighttime and industry events increases opportunities for collaboration with other artists, obtaining work, and establishing support systems.

Social network further provides artists with “peer review,” “flexible career paths,” additional forums for selling their artwork, and straight-up inspiration. Finally, locating in New York offers easier access to others, media promotion outlets, and association with the New York brand.

Currid notes the system’s darker side comprises an overemphasis on socialization, corruption in the approbation and promotion process, a skewed expectation of success subsequent to media presence, a too-close link between creativity and commerce, and the increased expectation of advanced degrees among artists.

Her recommendations are of the stand-aside variety: allow cultural producers to form their own creative spaces, create pro-cultural nightlife zones, provide low-cost housing in creative communities as sanctuaries in likely-to-gentrify neighborhoods (Currid doesn’t say this here, but artists are directly linked with the gentrification of their chosen neighborhoods), and support the cultural economy as a whole both through pro-work grantmaking and punishing industry transgressions.

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Currid, E. (2007). _The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City_. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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 [1984] 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.

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