Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Economic Value of Creating Creative Communities

This morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Felipe Buitrago from the IDB who inspired this entry. He spoke a lot about the economic value of creative communities. Instead of manufacturing an economic commodity, we are manufacturing minds. It is an investment, but overall there is a high economic return. We can equate things like Grammys won and other musical successes to a quantitative number. We can see how many are employed, etc. Competitions are an opportunity. His objective is not to make everyone a phenomenal musician, but rather create the space to provide the opportunity to foster musicians. Sound familiar?

In past blog posts, I've mentioned Finland's emphasis (among others) on arts education, but because this information came from a Colombian who now works for the InterAMERICAN Development Bank, this will be Latin-tinged. Colombia began a whole new mindset in 1991 when they wrote their Constitution of 1991 that said among other things, all music types must be accepted and treated equally. If the government was going to support rock, they had to support all rock, not just classic, heavy metal, etc. etc. As a result, competitions became solely things one could observe (how many years of experience, did they exhibit X) rather than judging quality. That was up to the audience to decide. I won't pass judgments and say this is right or wrong, but it is certainly a pique interest in the field; how do we evaluate excellence and minimize biases? The other part of the 1991 Constitution was the new mindset that took place gradually of being open to other religions, sexual preferences, and in general bursting outside the rooted, "traditional" Colombian mindset bubble.

The IDB is now initiating a project not only acknowledging the economic impact countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico have had through art, but acknowledging the transfer that SA can have on North America and not constantly only going the other direction. I also learned about the IDB's financial structure and only 18 of 44 members are not clients, the US being one of them. This means that the IDB can't spend money on arts programs across the country, though it can in DC...

That conversation was a reminder of the path from which I initially sought and honestly haven't completely ruled out. International development from a cultural perspective is still something that very much intrigues me and the conversations today paralleled El Sistema to a tee. I was also thrilled to find out the National Endowment for the Arts is conducting a similar study of measuring the economic value of art:

As always, comments welcome!

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