Posts Tagged ‘scene’

Kwende Kefentse
by Kwende Kefentse
Sat Aug 29th 2009 at 5:25am UTC

Coming Together to Ease the Pressure

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

In one of my most recent posts, I wrote about the international graffiti and urban arts festival Under Pressure, and about the pressure that it and many other music festivals have been under with the economic downturn. Cultural initiatives that depended upon bigger, corporate-type sponsors have been feeling the pinch, some festivals just disappearing. While there is community and cultural value embedded in these festivals, by hitching their sails to finance that has disembedded and severely stunted that community’s ability to deliver that value. There was a good chance that Under Pressure wouldn’t make it this year.

Community to the rescue – community of practice that is. Across the region, and beyond provincial borders, grassroots arts organizations have come together to support this gathering. Parties in Toronto to save a festival in Quebec? Why not? As the digital media networks broke down geographical boundaries with respect to the access to cultural interaction and accumulation, cultural affinities are spanning unexpected geographies presenting new opportunities for collaboration.

This is certainly true in the world of DJing and promoting. If an artist is passing through a dense cluster of cities it’s to the benefit of promoters to share costs with respect to travel, or to share the cost of a national booking fee. The Quebec City-Windsor corridor with its clustering of university towns and cities alike is already replete with cost-sharing and collaboration at the grassroots level, but there is room for a big boom there.

Groups like the Grassroots Youth Collaborative in Toronto have begun coalescing the efforts and power of this growing sector. Recently I came across a very interesting paper out of the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center about grassroots scenes and the role that they play in the creative economy ecosystem that was really prescient as well. What lessons can we learn from these informal youth networks as they support each other through financial crisis?

And now, as always, some music.

Kwende Kefentse
by Kwende Kefentse
Thu Jul 30th 2009 at 4:18am UTC

What’s in a scene?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

After writing an article about a local catalyst in a beautiful online publication called Dharma Arts, and especially after this past weekend’s successful House of Paint festival, some thoughts on the function of scenes have coalesced a bit more clearly. Both the occasion of writing the piece and participating in the festival were an opportunity to meditate on the words of Lawrence Rothfield, who spoke at the Martin Prosperity Institute earlier in June at the inaugural Placing Creativity conference. In his presentation about the city of Chicago’s cultural scenes he posited a very interesting hypothesis: that cultural scenes might be more powerful attractors/retainers of talent than creative industries. Seems simple, but this recognition can be a game changer.

The employment paradigm has shifted such that jobs follow talent just as much as talent follows jobs. In both cases, place has become more important because in both cases choosing it has become so fluid – there really has to be something particular about a given place for talent or jobs to settle and stay. An over investment in job creation without a balanced cultural investment can create a bubble/vacuum effect wherein creative class types are drawn in by the prospect of being professionally engaged, but aren’t incentivized to put down roots. Ottawa is an interesting place in that it has “creative class stabilizers” – three levels of government employment and 4 post secondary institutions. Still, even if there is a consistent flow of talent, it might not affect the economy that much in a quantitative way but it will inevitably affect the quality of place. In the pre-digital era connectivity and affinity through institutions like sports clubs, churches, or job related groups seemed to be sufficient, but increasingly these days people are more interested in being engaged as individuals. The flexible accumulation that the media environment has afforded us often means that the diversity of individual interests in a given area outpaces the scope of local institutions.

Local scenes are comprised of individuals who are willing to fill that gap by aggregating interest – usually at a place (read: venue) or series of places. I don’t think that the value or role of these people and these places can be understated within the creative economy ecosystem. Without them, the best that any given place can be is what Steven Johnson would term a “swarm without logic” – a group that could be greater than the sum of its parts but lacks the connectivity to realize it. Without active scenes though, talent can only be narrowly engaged along lines of official employment, and the net benefit of that talent can only be narrowly experienced by the region. Considering the fluidity of talent and jobs, creative industries may be the visible tip of the iceberg that signal security to talented people, whereas creative scenes might represent the larger underside that help catalyze that talent, cross-pollinating the emerging creative economy.

Has any particular scene in your city/town affected your quality of life? How is it related to that place? What type of scene activity would support an ideal employment situation for you? Considering that the aggregation of individual interests outpaces institutional reaction time as it does, how can institutions be more supportive of scenes and help to facilitate the emergent culture that is critical to retaining talent?

La musique.