The price of creativity

From my latest, Expensive cities are killing creativity:

New York – and San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where cost of living has skyrocketed – are no longer places where you go to be someone. They are places you live when you are born having arrived. They are, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, “the vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself”.

There are exceptions in these cities, but they tend to survive by serving the rule. The New York Times recently profiled Sitters Studio, a company that sends artists and musicians into the homes of New York’s wealthiest families to babysit their children. “The artist-as-babysitter can be seen as a form of patronage,” suggests the Times, “in which lawyers, doctors and financiers become latter-day Medicis.”

This is the New York artist today: A literal servant to corporate elites, hired to impart “creativity” to children whose bank accounts outstrip their own.

The Times explains the need for the company as follows: “Parents keep hearing that, in the cutthroat future, only the creative will survive.” The “creative” will survive – but what of creativity? Enterprises like Sitters Studio posit creativity as commodification: A taught skill that bolsters business prowess for tiny corporate heirs.

Creativity – as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation – is not a viable product. It has been priced out into irrelevance – both by the professionalisation of the industries that claim it, and the soaring cost of entry to those professions.

The “creative class” is a frozen archetype – one that does not boost the economy of global cities, as urban studies theorist Richard Florida argues, but is a product of their takeover by elites. The creative class plays by the rules of the rich, because those are the only rules left. Adaptation is a form of survival. But adaptation is a form of abandonment as well.

Read the whole thing at Al Jazeera English.

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10 Responses to The price of creativity

  1. Erstwhile Anthropologist says:

    Thanks for directing me to Molly Crabapple’s “Filthy Lucre”, it adds another dimension to the critique of the prestige economy and the ways in which expensive cities have killed creativity: race, racial hierarchy, and *Whiteness as capital* (social,cultural, symbolic, AND financial). Though Crabapple doesn’t say so explicitly–and it is too bad that she doesn’t given the underlying critique of what bell hooks termed ‘white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy’–the ‘naked-girl jobs’, financial arrangements cum prostitutuion-lite via Seeking Arrangements, and ability to sell one’s ‘genetically desirable’ eggs are all forms of White capital not available to all women, and certainly not available to bodies racialized as ‘unambiguously Black’ (though, and no disrespect to Suey Park and #NotYourAsianSidekick, they are available to some racialized non-White bodies who either through Euro-mime sis as performance or corporeality in a system of racialized hierarchy structured by the Black/White binary come to be seen and treated as ‘desirable’ ‘honorary Whites’ and or almost-Whites).

    I have just flown from San Francisco (outside of which I live, in large part because of the expense of living in San Francisco, as well as because of the unpleasant White hegemony created therein due to a tech industry notorious for excluding Black people in general and Black women in particular) to London (yet another of the too-expensive ‘world cities’ mentioned in your article), where, while wearing a fabulously whimsical, double-ruffle-collared feather-print coat I was asked if I worked for the Eurostar company while waiting to board a train, because the Nice White Girl With a French Accent asking me, like so many Well-Meaning White People I interact act with on a daily basis, can only see a servant (or a criminal or ‘ghetto dweller’) when they see a dark-skinned Black woman like me. Nice White Girl could get the kinds of jobs that Molly Crabapple concedes allowed her to ‘make it’ as an artist; women who look like me cannot. Whiteness is capital, too: especially in the world’s most expensive ‘global cities’. And the price one pays for not having such capital–especially when one speaks up to challenge the abusive practices of White heteropatriarchy–is steep; especially as the ‘creative class’ has deeply racist, sexist, and colorist ideas about who should be part of it.

  2. Raquel_Gomez says:

    Good payng work in LA in film but most BFAs don’t want to work below-the-line jobs. Not every job is going to let you express your creativity, have flexible hours and pay well. Many artistic, crtive people came to the US and worked service jobs. Sounds like middle-class white kids need some perspective.

  3. Sarah,

    This article is so brilliant. I’m a full-time musician living outside of Toronto. You’ve articulated things that have been on my mind for so long. Thank you! I’d love to buy you lunch sometime!

    David Cavan Fraser

  4. Wonderful article. I totally agree. I moved into the country over a decade ago from Toronto and have not lost my studio to condos, or been pushed into a commercial job. It is still very difficult to make a living however I am not alone and have many close friends who are creative and live beyond these gated communities. We are all trying to redefine what it is to be an artist without the infrastructure of an urban setting – and it’s slowly working!

  5. lovergirl321 says:

    i don’t understand? is she a real author? that is what i am asking is she? if she is i would love to read one of your books but i don’t have the time anyways try creating some more stories and making some more books bye!

  6. lovergirl321 says:

    she is in films too how ome i have never heard of her?congratulations on all of your success

  7. lovergirl321 says:

    very long article i can’t read it because it is very long and i don’t really have time bye chao!

  8. Pingback: The price of creativity | kb8dvk

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