I attended Cre8te Camp yesterday, the first in what I hope will be many more un-conferences for the creative community.
What is the creative community? It can be interpreted narrowly, as members of creative enterprises like ad agencies and design studios, or broadly to include scientists and engineers as in the academic theory of Richard Florida. Cre8te Camp Portland included software programmers as well as film makers. Including me, there were a mere two PR people in attendance, but the other is also a jazz singer. I, on the other hand, make no claim to creativity except as a dilettante. Still, as a PR consultant to creative enterprises I was interested in what this group had to say and how I could contribute.
Portland is at a crossroads, a point at which some decisions need to be made regarding the character of its future growth. The city draws creatives like never before, but increasingly the talented young people are having a difficult time staying here due to the cost of living. We are in danger of losing what gives the city its dynamism and energy unless the city and state leaders decide once and for all that the creative economy is the linchpin to future prosperity.
As was pointed out at Cre8te Camp, the down economy is actually a good time to regroup, identify investments, and seed the foundation of future growth in areas of authentic interest to Portlanders, like sustainability. There was quite some talk about what should be the role of the city in growing the creative sector, with quite a few emphasizing that the role should be facilitator only and not driver. So much of what has bubbled up as creative energy in Portland has been organically driven, not policy driven, and getting the city involved in an ownership role would kill off the natural impulses in what should be a grass roots movement.
That means organizing all the disparate creative groups in Portland into an active entity encompassing all major groups - indie music and film, design, graphic arts, galleries, animation studios, architecture firms. That won't be easy.
It also means, as was talked about at length in a break out session, in strategically important sister cities that serve to broaden the base of ideas and innovation through collaboration and exchanges. One thought was to consider a Greater Cascadia creative sector, joining Portland, Vancouver, Boise, San Francisco. Another was to identify cities around the world that match Portland's DNA of independence, sustainability, DIY, craft and balance with which to work to expound on the values pertinent to creativity that have sustained Portland's economy for the last few decades.
My vote: Curitiba, Brazil.