Creative Communities

Arts as an Economic Engine: Building Creative Communities

To our knowledge, no U.S. university is coordinating the power of visual and performing arts, architecture, and design as economic drivers to inform the university’s social engagement efforts. We will engage in a nine- to twelve-month-long, professionally facilitated, planning process involving faculty, staff, and graduate students in the visual and performing arts, architecture, design, engineering, urban planning, social entrepreneurship, social work, economics, and business. During this process, we will (1) investigate the material and symbolic place of cultural infrastructure in contemporary urban landscapes, (2) assess art’s catalytic potential as a strategy for the reactivation of slumped cities, and (3) consider both the entrepreneurial and less instrumental manifestations of arts and culture within strategies of urban regeneration. The planning process will generate two products: (1) a proposal for an interdisciplinary pilot project for Global Challenges seed funding in which the arts, architecture, and design are integral as drivers of economic development and cultural revitalization in distressed communities, and (2) as part of that proposal, a university-based organizational infrastructure for developing, supporting, and evaluating such cultural catalysts.

The impact of capital movement on vulnerable populations is a global problem; however, we intend to keep our focus on this global problem as it is manifested in the U.S. One reason for this focus is the possibility of success: the social, economic, and political complexities involved in arts- and culture-driven economic revitalization are daunting in one’s own country. It is hubristic, at best, to think that solutions that might work here can be successfully transplanted to foreign contexts, or would be welcome there. A second reason for a domestic focus is that the U.S. is itself rife with examples of this global challenge. Community-based efforts to address these needs provide fertile ground for potentially transformative partnerships that could serve as global models for university-community engagement.

Project Team:

David Bieri, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
John Ellis, School of Music, Theater and Dance
Larry Gant, School of Social Work
James Holloway, College of Engineering
Richard Norton, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Marvin Parnes, Office of the Vice President for Research
Anya Sirota, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Nick Tobier, Stamps School of Art & Design
Thomas Zurbuchen, College of Engineering
Dave Munson, College of Engineering
Theresa Reid, ArtsEngine