In Toronto and Austin, Standard Creative City Language Belies More Complex Models

In his article, "Cultural Economy Planning in Creative Cities: Discourse and Practice," University of Texas professor Carl Grodach examines the influence of theoretical models for cultural or creative economies of two cities, Toronto and Austin. He studies the language used in their cultural plans, and labels each plan as one of five prominent cultural economic development models:

  1. Conventional Economic Development: Focused on attracting outside firms and investment with no specific focus on culture, this model involves cost-based incentives, minimizing regulations, and marketing your city.
  2. Creative City: Derived from Richard Florida's creative class thesis, this model focuses on attracting a mobile class of creative workers who are drawn by quality of place, and arts and cultural amenities.
  3. Cultural Industries: The cultural industries model suggests that human capital develops cultural amenities and diversity, not vice versa. This model focuses on building industries which are formed by many specialized firms that provide project-based employment.
  4. Cultural Occupations: This model is built around the needs of artists and the work they do, rather than what they produce. Policy from this model focuses on affordable work/living space, and providing networking and financial support to individual artists and smaller arts organizations.
  5. Cultural Planning: This model focuses on what local arts and culture are already present within a neighborhood and attempts to connect and develop relationships between communities. It prioritizes cultivating and developing the resources that already exist in the community, building up grassroots campaigns and increasing civic engagement.

Toronto and Austin's written cultural plans most closely reflect Richard Florida's creative city model. However, while the language both cities use suggests this model, the implementation of the plans and some of the initiatives directly contradict Florida's work, focusing most of their resources on only one or two forms of culture, rather than creating a more diversified, cultural city. In their decision making, these cities seem to use hybrid cultural policy models, rather than relying on any one model exclusively.

In practice, many agencies and institutions in Toronto and Austin draw on the creative city language simply to continue to advance old agendas and initiatives, even if they are not necessarily specific to cultural industries. Through a collection of interviews with political, nonprofit, and cultural leaders, Grodach provides a deeper understanding of how decision-makers in cultural industries assess and act.

In Austin, there is a lack of city support for the creative city agenda, and those in the most privileged cultural sector, the music industry, are reluctant to promote it since they are currently the ones with favor. The film and fashion industries dominate in Toronto. Both cities tend to favor one or two cultural industries rather than creating an equitable creative environment.

This paper concludes that while cities are still using the creative city language to frame policy, policies themselves are informed by new, hybrid models.

Grodach, Carl. 2013. "Cultural Economy Planning in Creative Cities: Discourse and Practice." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 7(5): 1747–1765. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2012.01165.x