With the economy in the dumps and outlets closing shop or tightening their belts, many of us have had to get even more “creative” about the way we make our living as artists. Sometimes it can feel pretty bleak to be a true “starving artist” as we all scramble to figure out just where that line is for us. Questions like these fill your head:
What is selling out?
Is it better to barista than be a technical writer?
Is it o.k. to pen a jingle to keep the lights on?
Should I paint commissioned portraits to fund the west coast tour of my latest show?
Is it selling my soul to shoot weddings on the weekends until I can get that plumb National Geographic assignment?
Can I be a freelance graphic designer by day and a painter by night?
Can I use my writing skills and connections to help corporations hone and disseminate their marketing message?
At the end of the day how pure is your art?
What are you willing to do to create full-time?
Would you rather “Joe job” by day and moonlight creatively at night?
These are the questions that I find all of my creative friends asking themselves these days, more than ever. Thankfully though, those “in the know” say the key to getting out of this whole economic mess is to be creative. What?!
That’s surely not what your mama told you, back when you said you didn’t want to be pre-med, you wanted to dance. Like all the rest of us poor souls, you were probably told to enjoy it as a hobby but go ahead and get your masters in city planning. In the past, being creative was reserved for the dreams of youth or for those lucky few who made it big, “not for you, though,” they said, “You needed to grow up. You needed to be practical. You needed a back-up plan.” But what if all that was the past? What if that’s all about to be turned on its ear?
The world has changed my friends, seemingly overnight. With the advent of the internet, social media, cell phones, blogging, twitter, the global economy and the disintegration of many of this country’s major institutions, those “in the know” say the only way out of this recession is change. Change on a fundamental level, folks. Change in the ways in which we think about the world- the ways in which we relate and the ways in which we solve our generation’s most pressing problems. The Creative Class and a Creative Economy, they say, is the way.
Who are they? You ask.
- Business Week’s article, “Get Creative! How to Build Innovative Companies” says: “The Knowledge Economy as we know it is being eclipsed by something new — call it the Creativity Economy. . . the naysayers don’t get the strength inherent in a truly Creative Economy. This revolution has barely begun, and building creative, innovative companies is the great task ahead.”
- Jennifer Lloyd, San Antonio Express News, “Creativity Booms as Economy Sucks“: “. . .artists help keep a city’s economy going strong, and if they suffer, so might everyone else. A 2003 study from the University of Minnesota found that artistic activity can significantly contribute to an area’s economic vitality because artists can boost the economy by selling their work and by providing creative design and marketing for other products and services.”
- Laura Oppenheimer, The Oregonian, “Oregon’s Creativity Lights Up“: “Portland’s soon-to-be mayor, Sam Adams, says the creative economy is a priority. A growing chorus of public- and private-sector groups rally around the idea. So do national magazine and newspaper writers, who rave about Portland’s music, clothing and art — all products of creative commerce.”
- Andy Burnham, The Huffington Post, “Building the Creative Economy“, “The digital age has created huge opportunities for creative business. It has reduced costs, given birth to new creative tools, enabled new business models, facilitated new forms of creative collaboration and generated a new dynamic between the creator and the consumer – co-creation.”
Mayor Sam Adams believes so strongly that the key to Portland’s future economic strength is creativity, that he has partnered the city with the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and others for the “Act for Art: Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metro Region.” The three goals for this plan are:
1) Strengthen our Cultural Infastructure
2) Improve Access to the Arts and Arts Education
3) Invest in Creative Talent
One of the other things the plan hopes to do is devise a way for all of Portland’s Creatives to come together as one industry cluster, benefiting one another through shared support and networking. But Portlanders need look no further than Oregon Creative Industries, “a trade association in the formative stages of development, whose mission is to sustain and grow Oregon’s creative economy.”
So, you say to yourself, all this rhetoric, exploration and infrastructure-building is well and good but how do I get my slice of the proverbial pie? Well, that’s (to quote a fellow creative, musician David Byrne) “the same as it ever was.” Connections.
We creative and artist types can do more and get further if we ban together. There is strength in numbers (and referrals too!) Some of us have been doing this for years on a much smaller scale- maybe only with other writers. Like disciplines communing together for events like Wordstock. But since this burgeoning “Creative Economy” rests on the shoulders of all creatives, doesn’t it make sense to work- and network- together?
To that end, the Portland Creative Conference (produced by OCI) was born. A place where fashion designers and graphic designers can connect, where musicians and performance artists mingle with PR professionals, where writers and filmmakers come together with cartoonists and web gurus. It is, quite simply, “the spot” for creatives in Portland to network.
But it’s not just about networking; it’s about mentoring, inspiration and recharging in these uncertain economic times. It’s about new ideas born of stepping outside of your box and possibilities – the infinite possibilities that these partnerships bring and that the idea of a creative economy fosters. These possibilities breed hope- a key ingredient in change and economic growth.
Lastly, (but maybe even most importantly) the Portland Creative Conference (cre8con.com) is not only the most affordable conference you’ll attend this year ($99- and additional 25% of with special association codes) but it benefits our future by supporting K-12 arts education programs in Oregon through the non-profit, Keeping the Beat.
At the end of the day, we all need inspiration. That’s what an artist’s life is all about- feeding the muse. I’ll be feeding mine September 12th at the Newmark Theater in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts from 10am to 5pm and then hitting the wrap party afterward to blow off a little steam. Hope to see you there!
To reserve your spot to Cre8con ’09 click here.