Dixie Darr

The Circle Game

In creativity, Lent - Season of Change on March 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 23

When I moved to Highland neighborhood in North Denver in 1978, my friends were afraid to visit me. “Is it safe to park on the street?” they’d ask. When I left 33 years later, they said they wished they could afford to live there. Things change.

Back in 2002, Richard Florida introduced us to the creative class, declaring that “Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource.” His book, The Rise of the Creative Class, described a group made up of artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers and knowledge-based workers that made up nearly a third of the workforce and drives regional economic growth. People and companies want to go where the creative class grows.

That creates problems in cities across the country when people such as artists are priced out of areas that they pioneered. It happened my neighborhood and in downtown Denver when a group of artists in the mid-1980s founded the Lawrence Street Artists in a vacant warehouse at 2006 Lawrence Street. In 2013, the space was taken over by a fast-growing start-up and the artists scattered to the suburbs to find cheapter rent.

The state countered by establishing a fund for the Colorado Creative Districts for the purpose of

Attracting artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infusing new energy and innovation, which in turn will enhance the economic and civic capital of the community.” Several cities, including Denver, Crested Butte, Trinidad, Salida, and Pueblo have taken advantage of these funds.

But it doesn’t always, or even usually, take government intervention to attract artists to a community.When a flat bike tire led Ed Marquand to a little eastern Washington hamlet called Tieton back in 2005, he noticed a number of empty and abandoned buildings and recognized potential. He hatched a plan to relocate his publishing company from expensive Seattle real estate. He would buy deserted buildings and convince other artists and creative creative entrepreneurs in Seattle to move while also, hopefully, injecting new life into the town. Listen to the story on the Placemakers podcast.

And the cycle continues. The creative class takes over depressed areas in cities or small towns, attracting economic growth and pricing out the artists. Eventually the area falls out of favor and into disrepair again. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

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