Observations of an Artist: The Creative Economy is Beneficial for Everyone!

                A new support system developed for my pursuits in the arts after I obtained my bachelors.  The small businesses where I had frequented begun to allow me to publicly display and sell my paintings.  The amazing part was that my painting sold!  Local residents identified with the brightly optimistic paintings and as these new patrons became my friends, I began to understand what it meant to be a part of the ‘creative economy’.  Whether you produce or consume the creativity, I believe that the sector of the economy which focuses on the utilization of creativity provides personal benefits for everyone and cultivates a culturally-vibrant community.   

                This belief developed as I continued to participate as an artist in an ever expanding landscape, from local coffee shops to fine art galleries.  Patrons’ encouragement and financial support bolstered my practice while the interactions seemed to provide mutual benefits as we all enjoyed the pleasant participation in the arts.  While engaging with the creative economy, this phenomenon of benefits received in the various participatory roles has continued to intrigue me.  Sure, I enjoy receiving compliments and being compensated for what I love doing, but I often wondered: what impact does our creative economy really have on individuals and the economy as a whole?   

                The positive support I received from the community fostered a new desire within me to give back to those who helped me and to provide opportunities for other emerging artists.  The perfect opportunity came in 2010 to assist the Handborn Craft Bazaar in Modesto, California.  As a widely popular event in the downtown district, this fair featured local artisan crafts, jewelry, clothing and fine art with all of the colorful flair of the inventive Modestian subculture.  Local musicians played along the streets for the engaged community as local restaurants kept their doors open late to capitalize on the additional street traffic.  At this time, I was the 2nd Vice President of the Central California Art Association and was assisting the management of their co-op style gallery, called The Mistlin Gallery.  With the gallery’s downtown location, I sprung on the opportunity to plan for The Mistlin Gallery to participate in this event and on November 27, 2010, the Handborn Craft Bazaar was a success!  Thousands of residents came downtown to enjoy the evening event and get a jump on the holiday shopping by purchasing one-of-a-kind gifts.  The artisans were merrily overwhelmed as the community enjoyed the creative products that one could not find in any of the local mega-marts.  The Mistlin Gallery featured a jewelry trunk show and fine art show with refreshments and live entertainment. This event generated three times the daily revenue for the gallery while the Central California Art Association gained 5 new members.  When speaking with the neighboring coffee shop owner the following day, he also expressed dramatic increase in revenue as well as the development of a new clientele.  This community event fostered liveliness in the otherwise quiet downtown area and brought the community together through artful commerce. 

                Engagement with the arts is important to the vibrancy of city’s culture.  The Handborn Craft Bazaar is one example of how the creative entrepreneurs and cultural events can bolster local businesses and individuals while providing an opportunity for the community to engage and be intellectually stimulated with one another.  This collaborative event displays the creative economy in action, which has become the research focus for Otis College of Art and Design.  Otis defines the creative economy as “the market impact of businesses and individuals involved in producing cultural, artistic and design goods and services” and has been researching this market impact in Southern California to show how the creative industries are an “essential partner in advancing the economy, cultural vibrancy, social health and education (Otis).”  In the 2011 Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region, Otis revealed that “about 642,300 employees work directly or indirectly in the creative economy of Los Angeles and Orange counties.”  This means that nearly 1 in 8 jobs are a part of the creative economy in Southern California.  Regarding revenue generation, Otis reported that “Los Angeles County based firms in the creative economy earned an estimated $115 billion in revenues during 2010, while Orange County accounted for an estimated $14 billion.  California and local governments received an estimated $3.1 billion in taxes tied to these activities.”  As the numbers convey, the market impact of the creative economy in 2010 for Southern California was abundant and had positively bolstered the entire economy, just like how the Handborn Craft Bazaar had done for the local economy in Modesto.

                As the creative economy begins to become more widely recognized within the greater economy, I encourage everyone to reflect on the impact of the creative economy in your own life.  From the arts to design to architecture to education, the creativity reaches a vast number of industries which provide a variety of services and products that enrich the community.  This creative economy surrounds us, shaping how we build our community and how we engage within our community.  So in conclusion, I ponder: How does participation in the creative economy benefit you? 

Picture of my painting "Setting Sun", 36" x 48", gel medium and ink on canvas. Sold in 2007.