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Scott, A. (1997). The cultural economy of cities. _International journal of urban and regional research_, 21(2): 323–339.

Allen J. Scott, PhD Geography from Northwestern University, is Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Geography at UCLA. He has spent the last several years focusing on industrialization organization and location, urbanization, the cultural economy of cities, and economic development.

In this paper he explores “the intertwined effects of capitalist production processes and the ever-increasing cultural content of outputs, and the ways in which these effects make themselves felt in the growth and development of particular place” (325). Moreover, he asserts that these effects will be complex and far ranging, exhibiting both Adorno’s (2001) bleak assessment of the flattening culture industry and a more optimistic one.

Scott opens, explaining place and culture are inextricably liked and not without tensions: place is “always a locus of dense human relationships” (324) and culture is incident to “place specific characteristics” (ibid) that distinguishes localities from one another. The postfordist cultural product economy affirms the supply side’s differentiation marketing strategy and the demand side’s fad-driven consumption. The net effect: flexible, specialized production by small firms enabled by technological breakthroughs and networked organization.

The most important upshot for this “productive-cum-competitive regime” (327) discussion: “large metropolitan areas…[are] rapidly becoming the master hubs of cultural production in a postfordist global economic order” (327).

There are three main points of the cultural economy:

  1. it comprises a wide variety of manufacturing and service activities
  2. its employment signifies its sheer size, which seems to be growing
  3. much of the cultural economy is located in major city centers.

Scott then explains the cultural-products industries can be summed up in the following five technological-organizational dimensions:

  1. the technologies and labor processes involve larger amounts of human handiwork and computer technologies
  2. production is generally arranged in small- and medium-sized, dense networks
  3. multifaceted industrial complexes arise from the smaller networks, which in turn require labor pools, thus reducing the risks for both workers and employers
  4. the complexes of cultural products industries are “invariably replete with external economies” (333), which leads to “the hypothesis that innovation…is likely to be a geometric function of the size and the relevant reference group
  5. agglomeration encourages new institutional infrastructures which can assist the local economy.

Finally, while cultural economies are densely agglomerated in their home cities, they are likewise global actors, “embedded in far-flung global networks of transactions” (334). Their success is thus dependent on local penetration and foreign, cultural access. Multinational corporations are no an essential ingredient in cultural production circulation.

“[G]eographically differentiated cultural production nodes are liable to be the rule rather than the exception” (335).


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Markusen, A. (2006). Urban development and the politics of a creative class: evidence from a study of artists. _Environment and Planning A,_ 38(10):1921-1940.

In this piece, Markusen critically addresses Richard Florida’s methodology, looks closer at artists as workers and residents, sees where the previous two jibe, examines how the arts organize in cities — where and how they work, and their role in gentrification — and finally, makes recommendations about pro-arts planning.

Richard Florida, famous for his anointing the creative class with his 2002 The Rise of the Creative Class, asserts that the new creative class has overtaken virtually all other classes, both collars and the wealthy, and that they prefer high-tech locations in amenity-filled, diverse cities. Markusen says hold on. “Creativity” is a fuzzy concept from the start, which Florida confuses even further by his use of occupational code statuses (i.e. he includes managers from some questionably creative categories, but omits such groups as tailors, millwrights, etc.) Second, he generalizes from select anecdotes, which is just a problem anywhere. Third, his regressions show a relationship between the creative class and high-tech, which has a few foundational flaws. Glaeser (2004) included educational attainment into Florida’s regressions and his erstwhile significant relationships, notably his gay index, were all gone. He further uses metropolitan areas, which cast a much wider net. Consider Silicon Valley — nowhere is more high-tech and its built landscape is very suburban, homogenous. His “glib treatment of diversity is particularly troubling” (1923) since he uses same-sex male households reporting as partners as a proxy for overall diversity. Both Clark (2004) and Glaeser (2004 find this “gay index” really to be correlated to education, one, and two, most Americans would agree that diversity, while inclusive of it, extends beyond sexual identity to include race, ethnicity, migrant presence, economic class mix, etc. Overall, there’s an issue of causality that lingers and Markusen’s biggest issue is the “seriously flawed conceptual treatment of creativity. Human creativity cannot be conflated with years of schooling…. It is simply incorrect, and indeed dangerous, to label people in large lumpy occupational groupings such as managers and professional workers as creative, and others–all production and service workers, for instance–as not creative” (1924).

Richard’s virtue is that he does see creativity as embedded in occupations, though, so Markusen studies discrete occupations to discover migration behavior, socioeconomic characteristics, and why artists migrate, to where, and how they relate with and to their communities.

The two reasons for location: (1) demand from artist-hiring commercial sectors, and (2) conscious lifestyle choice to promote one’s artistic development. The latter is possible because artists are more apt to be self-employed — they have high amounts of contractual work and direct access to consumers. Therefore, artists are “more footloose and apt to choose a place to live before committing to employment or marketing efforts” (1926).

Artists have comprised a growing occupation in the US in the last 30 years. There was a surge following new pro-arts funding of the 60s (e.g. Ford Foundation, the NEA, regional corporate funding), which was hampered during the 90s Culture Wars’ crippling of NEA funding. The upshot was a re-concentration of artists in the top three most artistic cities: New York, LA, and San Francisco.

Migrational findings:

  • urban economies both attract and homegrow artists
  • artists move between and within cities, and between cities and rural areas at relatively high rates (per the 2010 NEA “Creative Placemaking” panel, this migration is also generational)
  • educational institutions and cultural organizations skew spatial distributions
  • artists’ decisions are thought-out and deeply researched
  • where: toward denser cities, transitional neighborhoods
  • why: art schools, performance and exhibition spaces, affordable live/work and studio space, training institutions, artists’ centers, and amenities (nightlife, recreational)
  • how: ratio of men to women is higher, more apt to rent than own, whiter than their workforce as a whole, and highly educated as a group; while they might be poor, they can live in households with very high incomes

Markusen’s findings jibe with Florida’s regarding artists’ intermetropolitan, intraurban, socioeconomic characteristics, though the relationship to high-tech is unclear and his emphasis on agglomeration (1) overlooks precise locations and (2) inspires urban megaprojects, a la the Bilbao Effect.

Her research finds artists use smaller spaces, some permanent and some temporary for their work more than any one given institution. There are three artist-centric spaces, all incubators, spaces for exchange and debate. Creativity is not a zero-sum game.

“…this nurturing of artists may strengthen regional and neighborhood economies in ways that magnify their contribution to equity, stability, and diversity. Such spaces are a relatively underappreciated element in the urban economy and deserve to be studied and appreciated” (1935).

  • artists’ centers: offer conversations, classes, mentoring, shared workspace and tools, and where exhibits, readings, and performances take place; involve dedicated space that is available for ongoing visits, where membership and access to many events is available to all comers, and where other artistic functions are available on a more selective, often openly competitive basis
  • artists’ live/work and studio buildings: conversion of former industrial buildings converted into artists’ studios or live/work units; initiators of transformations are often artists themselves; conversions involve tax credits, city loans, and land or building write-downs
  • smaller scale performing arts venues: these provide the opportunities for an important segment of artists to learn their craft and network; for the “real time” enterprises that can’t be installed, stored, etc.; are often adaptively reused buildings

Artists, though linked with gentrification, are generally diametrically opposed, politically, to conservative development efforts. “But for the most part, artists are adamant in their support for more decentralized, neighborhood-based theaters, galleries, and other artist-centered spaces” (1936). Artists are social actors, not gentrifiers.

Conclusions: be more nuanced. (1) Major downtown projects aren’t the best approach. (2) Really look at who’s bringing in the money. (3) And if it’s the artistic community, then there are different approaches.

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Markusen, A. and Schrock, G. (2006). The artistic dividend: urban artistic specialization and economic development implications. _Urban Studies_, 43(10):1661.

Greg Schrock, PhD, Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Chicago, is Assistant Professor at Portland State University. His research focuses on the intersection of regional economies and local labor markets, and how economic and workforce development initiatives can promote social equity and upward mobility in low-wage sectors.

With this article, the authors aim to reconceptualize the additional, positive impact of artists on their cities that would not otherwise occur without them: the “artistic dividend.” Thus far, their contributions have been understated because current methodologies ignore critical improvements artists bring to manufacturing facilities, cross-fertilization into other sectors and artistic practices, or the fact that “regional consumption of the arts may be import-substituting, as consumers prefer to spend on performances and artwork rather than spending at shopping malls full of imports” (1662).

Artists “heavily patronize other artists’ work and as so much of this work is labor-intensive, the multiplier effect of local arts consumption maybe higher than expected” (ibid).

There are two forms of dividends: first, current income streams within the market and second, “returns to the region as a whole on past investments” (ibid), which echo Markusen’s (2004) “distinctive city” findings about artist distribution among cities. They operationalize the artistic dividend occupationally, and look at individuals who self identify as artists.

So how and where are artists locating themselves at the start of the 21st century? Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco lead the pack, having highly skewed location quotients (particularly in performing arts), believed to be linked with: increases in arts funding, emphasis on tourism, and the pursuit of cultural capital by city leadership.

At the same time, these cities reversed the trend of decentralization, with artistic communities reconvening in LA, New York, and San Francisco in the 90s, so much so that LA overtook the highest-concentration-of-artists mantle from New York. Artists did flock to other second-tier cities, making their populations more secure. Migration is affected by the artists’ decision about where they want to live and work, but work is not the deciding factor.

Without question, artists cluster by their particular practice. For example, designers and architects are more likely to have full-time professional occupations in their field. New York, LA, and San Francisco are home to the largest concentrations of designers but not architects. Because the latter’s work is so cooperative, they cluster in metro areas in general. Advertising industries are correlated with large pools of artistic groups, but Markusen and Schrock demurred to make claims about direction of causality. Artists, especially writers, are self-employed in varying patterns; therefore policymakers should look at more information than just arts organization impact studies.

The authors conclude with the following policy recommendations. Cities should: (1) support artists’ centers, (2) link resident artists with their corporate communities not for philanthropy but product development purposes, (3) improve their decision-making processes for arts funding, and (4) make more granular, strategic investments.

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