ArchitectureBoston

Letters

Posted in Vol 12 No 4 by bsaab on November 30, 2010

We want to hear from you. Letters may be posted online, e-mailed or sent to ArchitectureBoston, 52 Broad Street, Boston, MA 02109. Letters may be edited for clarity and length, and must include your name, address, and daytime telephone number. Length should not exceed 300 words.

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In “Meet the Creatives” [Fall 2009], editor Elizabeth Padjen expressed succinctly the position that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has embraced with regard to the Creative Economy: “… support of the arts is not indulgence; it is vital to fostering creative thinking and the innovation that fuels our economic system.”

Massachusetts’ revolutionary spirit has led to over 400 years of innovations across all sectors of the economy, and the driving force behind those innovations is creative thinkers. Governor Patrick has emphasized the growth of the creative industries as key to our innovation-economy efforts by appointing the first-ever Creative Economy Industry Director and signing the Creative Economy Council Bill. We have forged key collaborations with creative industries, including the launch of the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA), which connects the design community with policy-makers and leading industries.

Bridging the gap between our creative talent and business people, industrialists, technology experts, entrepreneurs, academicians, and the entire innovation ecosystem will help maintain Massachusetts’ rightful place as one of the leading “ideas” economies of the world. It also helps ensure that the design talent that comes to Massachusetts for a world-class design education stays on to work in the design professions in the Commonwealth. This is why we’re excited about DIGMA’s upcoming “Design and Innovation” events as a way to expose many of our other industries to the innovation that can come from “design thinking.” We hope these sessions will not only be the beginning of a sustained conversation about the importance of design to the growth of businesses across the spectrum, but will also eventually put more of our designers to work by growing jobs both within and outside the design industries.

The Creative Economy [Fall 2009] is a powerful catalyst for innovation in our science- and technology-based industries. This belief has guided our work at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute in the context of seminal projects that have nurtured and strengthened our Creative Economy. These efforts have included a key conference organized by The Salem Partnership; assistance to the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, leading to the establishment of Berkshire Creative; and involvement in an initiative by Massachusetts College of Art and Design that led to the founding of the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA).

In addition to appreciating their intrinsic value for the human condition, the expression of the spirit, and the building of the symbolic and material worlds around us, the Creative Economy industries and professions are fundamental to the vitality of the Massachusetts innovation economy. As Beate Becker comments [in “Industrial Strength” ], David Edwards convincingly argues [in “Catalytic Converter” ], and Peter MacDonald illustrates [in “Arts & Minds” ], we know that when artistic creativity, design thinking, and science and engineering expertise come together, visions emerge of novel products with exceptional form and function. This is why opportunities and spaces for interaction among artists, designers, scientists, and engineers are so important. And this is why education in the arts, design, and the humanities starting in K-12 is as important as science, technology, engineering, and math.

Congratulations to ArchitectureBoston and to the individuals and organizations featured in the Creative Economy issue who work hard every day to transform the Creative Economy industries and professions from our best-kept secret into one of Massachusetts’ most important assets in the global economy.

Thank you for the article “The Creative Entrepreneur” [Fall 2009]. I appreciate your recognition of the often-overlooked importance of creative businesses. As a consultant to creative companies in the Boston area, I relish the validation that your article provides.

As creative professionals, we often work more nimbly, networking with other creatives to form business task teams, and then dismantling them when they are no longer needed. Our efficiency, innovativeness, and aesthetic impact are exceptionally valuable to communities. However, despite this, we still work primarily in silos and, as such, lack the social and political power that brings recognition and benefits.

I hope that this article will inspire others as it has inspired me to make a commitment to working more collectively with other creative entrepreneurs to assure that our voices are heard in unison.

The Creative Entrepreneur” by Christine Sullivan and Shelby Hypes [Fall 2009] provoked many thoughts as I reflected on my own journey as a sole proprietor.

Those who enter the Creative Economy do so for reasons beyond financial prosperity. Most have very little business knowledge or experience; with eyes firmly set on creative goals, they rarely understand the true risks involved. They have heard about “cash flow” but did not realize that it may mean long periods of time between earning and receiving their income. When new opportunities disappear with a downturn in the economy, they wonder what will happen next. In the present economic situation, many are experiencing the downside of the high risk = high reward equation.

The article illuminated common misconceptions, including the fact that sole proprietors are not counted in the state economic reports (perhaps 20 percent of the workforce). Without this data, how can we understand the true state of the economy? How can we gauge the economic recovery without this knowledge?

What should the government do? Personally, I do not want to be “bailed out.” I would prefer more creative solutions to keep struggling sole proprietors solvent, such as restructuring tax laws to use current revenues to estimate taxes, rather than past years’ (higher) figures; simplifying the process of hiring employees for small businesses; and carefully studying the impact proposed mandates would have on small business (and job) growth.

Most importantly, as creative entrepreneurs, we need to collaborate to help each other thrive as business owners. In bad economies, new businesses often flourish: the newly unemployed often find the smallest opportunity may be enough to begin a new firm, like a forest regrowing after a wildfire. We need to be there to help them grow, through mentoring and knowledge-sharing.

I was delighted to see your broad coverage of the Creative Economy in the Fall 2009 issue. As the president of Midcoast Magnet, a Creative Economy networking organization based in Camden, Maine, I am very tuned in to the relationship of people and places. Camden is a short sail down the coast from Northport, home of Swans Island Blankets featured in Deborah Weisgall’s “Arts & Minds” article.

With companies like Swans Island Blankets as an example, Maine is becoming a great place to do business. We have hardworking, creative people who can now compete on a global basis while choosing to live in one of the most picturesque environments on the planet. One of the challenges we have is in re-purposing the existing buildings that give Maine some of its character to meet the needs of a 21stcentury place of business. At the same time, architects and builders in Maine are challenged with renovating our aging housing stock to meet the demands of environmentally-conscious consumers while protecting the historical architectural palette that helps to define the Maine brand.

In November, Camden will host the Juice 2.0 Creative Economy conference [“Building Maine’s Innovation Networks,” http://www.juiceconference.org], which will weave together the arts and culture, along with technology and entrepreneurship. With over 40 breakout sessions featuring the best of Maine businesses, we’ll be developing creative networks and discussing issues related to quality of place and entrepreneurship. I invite your readers to join us!

I just received the Fall 2009 issue of ArchitectureBoston. By what stroke of good luck someone put me on your mailing list, I will never know. But your publication is always an eye-opener. As an architect in both New York and Hartford, the view you present of Boston and Boston-area design is significant. In short: the quality of the design work is generally higher by a long shot than the design work in New York, and certainly in the Hartford-New Haven area. That says something good about Harvard, MIT, and the other Boston-based design schools.

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