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The Creative Engine: How Arts & Culture is Fueling Economic Growth in New York City Neighbourhoods

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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Based on two years of research, this report highlights issues and an agenda for local cultural development that Canadians could also consider, including a “neighbourhood by neighbourhood assessment of cultural development that looks at the potential of arts and culture to stimulate economic growth”. The body of the report is an examination of local cultural development issues in communities across NYC. The report also updates employment and economic impact figures for New York that were last prepared in 1992. The new figures show a 52% growth rate in the cultural economy since 1992.

The report outlines how community development can work from the ground up, using arts and culture as a base and a primary component of growth. The report also notes some troubling issues often associated with local cultural development, such as gentrification and displacement of community residents and merchants. Cultural development strategies should tackle these issues head on. Needs of the cultural sector, including space, organizational stability and coordinated marketing and planning, are also outlined in the report.

The report argues that “no single industry attracts other sectors to the extent that arts and culture does. It’s the crucial lure for retail, street life and other amenities that draw business to an area.” Other key findings of the report include: economic development intermediaries are key to cultural development, but the majority are not plugged in; funders rarely make the connection between arts and culture and local economic development; and key ingredients for successful cultural development are most often found at the neighbourhood level.

Flowing from these key findings, the six recommendations in the report are: accurately identify the creative sector; focus city agencies on this sector; local stakeholders should establish a local entity at the outset of any development plan; bridge the gap between cultural and economic development intermediaries; promote the ownership of artistic space; and fuel local collaboration. These are recommendations that cities on this side of the border could also examine.

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