2013 Creative Time Summit

When 25 Oct 2013 - 26 Oct 2013
Where Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, NYU
566 LaGuardia Place
New York, NY 10012
United States

October 25 & 26 2013

The 2013 Creative Time Summit sets its sights on the fact that culture, for good or bad, is an active ingredient in the construction and shaping of the contemporary city. Tapping into widespread debate on this issue, this year’s Summit provides a global platform for consideration of the trials, tribulations, artistic practices, campaigns, theories, and practicalities that accompany this phenomenon. As the active role of culture in the city gains traction not only with artists but also with architects, city planners, philanthropists, and developers—from eye-popping monumental sculpture, to arts districts, to battles over eviction and squatting—this year’s Summit provides a timely opportunity to debate and consider a variety of artistic approaches to this contemporary condition.

While theorists have long foretold the shift cities would experience in transitioning to the information economy, the language most commonly adopted to describe these urban transformations derives from that of Richard Florida, who is perhaps most famous for coining the term “the creative class.” Influenced by Florida’s writings, among others, many cities are taking art and culture more seriously, viewing it as a catalyst for economic development and a magnet for capital.
Today, the correlation between place and cultural production has found its way into foundations, with terms like “placemaking” used to describe culture’s current and potential role in the expanding metropolis. Newer terms, including “creative economies,” are also being introduced as government, private sector, and foundation interests increasingly incorporate the idea of culture-as-urban-catalyst into their thinking about the city. With this kind of attention, the role of culture in the city demands the careful consideration of the arts communities that are invested in the connection between social justice and art.

The shift toward the information economy in cities has been accompanied by the heavily debated and very familiar phenomenon described as “gentrification.” With its overtones of displacement, racial exclusion, and class inequity, the term signals a glaring downside to the influence of culture on urban neighborhoods. Gentrification is now a familiar part of cities across the globe, from Istanbul to Los Angeles, from Buenos Aires to Moscow. It incurs debate, frustration, and theorizing, and has touched the lives of countless people worldwide.

Artists today must wrestle with a myriad of fascinating implications as the arts reach a new level of engagement with a heterogeneous public. The Summit is an apt place to address this topic, and to ask such questions as: How can equity be achieved in an economic and political environment of vast inequity? What new forms of civic participation and engagement are artists integrating into the built environment? What instructive models are being deployed by today’s city planners and mayors? How can foundations and governments support a kind of cultural production that makes cities economically sustainable for all of their inhabitants? How can culture contribute to the city beyond the economic realm? How does culture contend with the impact of the environmental crisis on the city, as we recently experienced in New York following Superstorm Sandy?

Every city has a different story to tell, and there is much to be gleaned from the frustrations felt and battles endured in radically different contexts. Taken together, these narratives point to something profound consideration: art is an integral part of the viability of contemporary cities, and its implications are as complex as the cities themselves.

Nato Thompson
Chief Curator, Creative Time

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