Drivers in cultural planning today – Part 2

By Greg Baeker


In Part 2 of my blog series on drivers in cultural planning today, I’d like to look at “whole city” approaches, digital culture, and cultural enterprise and entrepreneurship. You can find Part 1 here.

A weakness in some cultural plans is an excessive focus on downtown areas. Cultural planning is increasingly turning to “whole city” approaches and perspectives that balance attention to downtowns and neighbourhoods as well as examine connections and interrelationships between different parts of the city.

One manifestation of this more holistic perspective relates to cultural spaces and facilities. Increasingly these spaces are understood less as standalone facilities but as part of a larger cultural ecology in the community, an interrelated system of facilities and activity with specific relationships to neighborhoods, districts and the city as-a-whole. Each program or facility is significant in its contribution to supporting and showcasing cultural talent and creativity, providing a diverse range of cultural and heritage activities, increasing knowledge and connecting a diverse constituency of cultural organizations, artists and citizens.

Digital Culture

The rapid pace of technological convergence and the emergence of digital culture are having a profound impact on cultural planning as well as policy making at more senior levels of government. These trends are impacting the way creative content is produced, exhibited or staged, distributed and consumed – and reshaping the very notion of cultural participation and consumption.

Digital technology has created entirely new means to enable individuals to participate in and exchange the creation and recreation of creative product. Increasingly, and especially among the emerging generation of younger artists, digital technology provides new tools with which to explore and develop their practice.  “Digital Arts” includes electronic art, interactive digital media, digitization of content, but more generally is applied to contemporary forms of artistic expression that use digital media for cultural production and distribution.

Cultural Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

Creative and cultural workers increasingly move between different creative and cultural sectors and between private/commercial, subsidized and not-for-profit sectors. Their flexible, contract based work style is heavily reliant on networks – but in many cases they are not able to leverage the potential opportunities this offers them.  Research undertaken for the Canada Council for the Arts[1] notes the importance to younger artists of mentoring, networks, professional communities (real and virtual) to support increasingly multi-disciplinary work and collaborative creative practice.  With no long-term expectation of public sector support the focus is on seed funding and support at the fledgling stage of their creative business. The goal for many is to be entirely reliant on income generated through their practices.

The challenges of developing more systematic and sustainable approaches to supporting the development of the creative and cultural sector also points strongly to the need to build business and entrepreneurial skills. The emergence of cultural incubators reflects the advantages to arts and creative organizations of access to shared resources and support in a multi-tenant environment. Artscape, a Toronto based not-for-profit developer has developed an international reputation for its expertise in developing these creative spaces.

In this and a previous blog I have described six powerful trends shaping cultural planning in cities and regions of widely differing populations and circumstances. Communities wishing to establish and implement progressive, relevant and impactful cultural plans should take these issues into account.

[1] Canadian Council for the Arts (2007). Next generation of Artistic Leaders and Arts Audiences Dialogues.