I was listening to Minister Lyn Kosky speaking at the opening of Victoria's State of Design Festival the other day. She gave a lengthy speech that emphasised the diversity of Victoria's design talent, and how the government and RMIT have been working to lower entry barriers to the design industries for youth. All worthy stuff, and very reminiscent of American Richard Florida's writings.
Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class" has had many MPs and mayors buzzing with excitement. I've heard the basic premis of the book (I haven't read it) is that if you encourage creative sorts to live close in to your town, they will stimulate the economy for you. Like live cultures thrown into a jar of yoghurt mix. His argument is summarised in
this smaller essay
. It basically tells any cities that want to prosper to be as hip'n'cool as they can. Families and 'burbs and blue collar jobs are not as cool for the economy as tattooed young graduates being creative all night in grungey studios downtown.
While all this attention can't be a bad thing, it isn't really the creations themselves that the pollies are interested in, more the economic advantage in concentrating design activity within their constituencies, and not someone else's. The flyer for the Festival notes that, "growing Victoria's design capability will increase our global competitiveness, attract new investment and create jobs."
A friend of mine wondered if there was a danger in slickly packaging Victorian Design and selling it on prime time like this. He was thinking if there were parallels with Melbourne's laneways, which were discovered and promoted heavily by Tourism Victoria and the council, much to their detriment.
If design is going to be packaged by the State, what kinds of design? It seems from the State of Design Festival's exbihition at Melbourne Museum that good design this year is modern and urban - we are not seeing the latest in doilies, car jacks, and nappies here. It's the first year, so it will be interesting to see how this exhibition broadens in the future, while maintaining the consistency that an exhibition needs.
Another friend said while we were walking through the exhibition, "where's the process?" Yes, the back breaking, late night, 8 cents an hour part... If governments are interested in supporting the many tiny creative businesses in their cities, a more effective way might be to focus on helping those businesses stay afloat.
A bleak future, if imagination is not nurtured
Andrew Refshauge, deputy premier of NSW
"I also like the idea that instead of having the arts we can afford, we need the arts for the economy to boom."
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The Right don't like : "The Curse of the Creative Class"