Arrogance and the Creative Class in West Michigan
Ever since the 2007-2008 global economic crash, one mantra that has been repeated over and over about ways to both solve the economic crisis locally, is the mantra of retaining and attracting the “creative class.”
People in business, government and even the non-profit world invoke Richard Florida’s claim that what brings back cities is a group of people he refers to as the creative class. This usually translates as young, urban, white professionals who are somewhat forward thinking on social issues and entrepreneurial in spirit.
I discovered an invocation of the creative class in an article posted on Stellafly Social Media, entitled Steve Frazee and Bill Holsinger-Robinson: Your guides to tending the local economic rainforest.
The focus of the article is on the new HUB Grand Rapids, which, according to the group’s website, is a new kind of membership club dedicated to the individuals and teams building the local, sustainable economy in Grand Rapids and beyond.
However, it was the comments in the Stellafly article that were particularly instructive.
It’s all about developing a community of creative people, knowledge workers. It’s the core of the super-creative class – the 3 percent of the community who do most of the creative work,” Frazee said. “We’re bringing those people together and giving them things to start to make their lives more interesting and effective.
And what exactly will these people be doing……..ending poverty, figuring out ways to drastically reduce global warming, make health care affordable to everyone or stop rape and other hate crimes. Not even close. The HUB will be all about thinking of new ways to assist existing businesses and start new for profit ventures that will primarily serve those who already have tremendous privilege in this society.
In addition, what the hell do they mean by the “super-creative class – the 3 percent of the community who do most of the creative work?” Nowhere do they really define creative work, but it seems quite arrogant of them to make such a claim when all kinds of people, in all walks of life engage in creativity in this community.
Think of all the working class people who don’t make enough money to really make ends meet, but many of them do because they creatively can make every dollar count. What about all the artists in this community who aren’t primarily motivated by money, but provide venues of all kinds of artistic expression – places like Mexicains Sans Frontieres or the regular activities hosted by Avenue for the Arts.
Then there are all of the passionate and creative people at the grassroots level who are addressing violence in the community, making it safer for women, immigrants and other sectors of society who are the targets of violence and hate. Most of these people do amazingly creative work, for little or no money, with an outcome that is unquantifiable. Are these people not “super-creative.”
The HUB has already received $300,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which means some of that money is taxpayer money. Shit, if these people are so creative, why do they need to be subsidized by the public?
The Stellafly article also lists entities that have offered the group support, such as Adtegrity; Atomic Object; Cascade Engineering; Huntington Bank; Grand Rapids Community Foundation; Grand Valley State University; Huron River Ventures; Spectrum Innovations; StartGarden; and the City of Grand Rapids. In many ways the usual suspects in promoting business projects that will primarily benefit those who already have easy access to capital.
Lastly, it is worth noting how they keep using the metaphor of the rainforest for what they are doing. This is also instructive, since a rainforest is extremely bio-diverse ecosystem, which does not exactly fit with the 3 percent super creative class notion. A rainforest would be an apt metaphor for including all people and all species as necessary components to make any system thrive, from the smallest insect to the largest tree.
But hey, maybe the HUB of Grand Rapids will figure out a way to stop the capitalist class from destroying what remains of the real rainforest around the world.