The City of Vancouver's recent gift to the city's artistic community of 26,000 square feet of studio space may be the beginning of a new attitude toward the city's creative cluster. At least, I hope so.
Recently, I took in the Creative Mornings monthly gathering of those who are interested in the intersection of technology and art. The subject was web typefaces and the people who make them.
One would think that to be a pretty dry subject, of interest only to a handful of geeks and graphic designers, but the speakers were lively, interesting and above all, passionate about the subject.
By the time they finished, I had a new respect for those who spend many hours involved in the art of creating beautiful new fonts, which has been helped in recent years by technology.
The place was packed, and I was lucky to get in. Usually, many more people apply but don’t make it; seating in the Woodwards building is limited to 150 people, although more sneak in.
This is typical of the creative sector in Vancouver: it’s made up of thousands of passionate, intelligent people who have adopted various new technologies and used them to create many new forms of art.
But they can’t get any respect.
Whenever people talk about industries in Vancouver, they talk about forestry, energy, professional services and maybe, technology. They rarely talk about the creative sector, which in terms of numbers of employees is nearly as big as all of the above.
One report released a couple of months ago, "From The Margins To The Mainstream: Moving B.C.’s Creative Industries Forward," pegged the value of B.C.’s “creative cluster” in 2007 at $4 billion and employing close to 100,000 people.
One can only assume that with the growth of digital media and digital special effects for film, that those numbers have increased considerably. Creative clusters are booming around the world and it’s conceivable that, although they have different focuses, there is much overlap between the creative industry and the technology industry in B.C.
But the creative industries in Vancouver haven’t reaped the rewards showered on the other industries.
In many ways, it’s been the opposite. For the most part, they are ignored, except for the occasional gift, such as Mayor Gregor Robertson’s recent announcement that the city was providing some 26,000 square feet of studio space to the city’s artists.
What interested me about the mayor’s announcement was that he said Vancouver has the highest concentration of artists in Canada, and that artists constituted one of the fastest-growing segments of the labour force.
This may be a one-off, or it could be the beginning of a new and productive for this city’s fermenting creative cluster.
I hope it’s the latter.