How does a creative school become a creative city?

Many cities around the world present themselves as undergoing programmes of regeneration by aiming to engage the efforts of the local ‘creative communities‘ for the benefits of the city and and presenting themselves as a site of creativity and hub of contemporary culture.

In The Rise of the Creative Class Richard Florida interprets these ‘creative communities’ as a creative class: latter day, Platonic philosopher rulers, requiring ‘less creative’ members of society who struggle to cite a single classical composer or who don’t know their Michael Jackson from their Jackson Pollock, to provide services and facilities which they – the creative classes – are either too busy, preoccupied or aloof to have to contend with themselves.

Ironically, the city’s desire to democratise creativity, to become an attractive place for ‘the creatives’ and to make creativity a gregarious cultural process tends to generate a hierarchical structure of city boundaried privileged locations of loft conversions and artistic architraves amongst the archetypes.

Jamie Peck’s analysis of Florida suggests that: Florida’s street level analog of such attempts to ‘harness’ creativity comes in the form of a celebration of the buzzing, trendy neighborhood, a place where everyday innovation occurs through spontaneous interaction… a place where outsiders can quickly become insiders’…

Schools who wish to develop creativity in the classroom perhaps begin to resemble creative cities as outsiders are encouraged to visit them with the enticements of earning potential or employment, becoming in the process a veritable market place for creative practitioners.

Peck continues to identify what is required of a city to make the transformation to a creative city by referring to the development of a Tool-kit for Cities by Cortwright, for the American management consultancy, Impresa and Coletta:

Impresa and Coletta’s Tool-Kit for Cities

* Deliver an ‘appealing reality’, because ‘young people are very savvy in assessing cities’;
* Put values on display, demonstrating how the city ‘welcomes newcomers and new ideas’;
* Keep in touch with former residents, and find ways to have them ‘return to your city’;
* Create opportunities for civic involvement, deliberately seeking out the opinions of young people;
* Use internships to connect with young adults;
* Survey young adults regularly, including ‘exit interviews’;
* Celebrate young entrepreneurs and civic contributors;
* Communicate development plans to young adults;
* Promote your city: ‘place marketing works best when it is based on authentic stories that people are willing to tell about their cities’;
* Promote a young adult lifestyle, particularly ‘active nightlife’, and do not be fearful that this might ‘scare off the soccer moms’

Mapping out these criteria for creative cities against schools OfSTED reports offers some tentative support to the notion that schools, rather than places of teaching and learning actually are better described as creative cities. The pedagogical implications of seeing a school as a city are immense and will be explored in later blogs.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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