The Creative Engine

How Arts & Culture Is Fueling Economic Growth in New York City Neighborhoods

Neil Scott Kleiman et al.
Review by Carl Little, Maine Community Foundation

November 2002, 36 pages. Center for an Urban Future, 212-479-3338,

The Creative Engine offers an excellent overview of efforts to encourage cultural development in New York City. Using a battery of impressive statistics and a number of case studies, the authors demonstrate how arts and culture organizations, programs, and initiatives are strengthening the economy of seven neighborhoods in the Big Apple. "With an astonishing 52 percent growth rate over the past nine years," reads one pull-quote, "New York's cultural industry is responsible for more than 150,000 jobs." Like other creative economy boosters across the country, the authors make the point that the "creative economy" should be considered as an "economic sector, equal to financial services, telecommunications, or manufacturing."

The key findings section offers insight and guidance on the subject. Among the "aha's" is this: While economic development intermediaries are key to cultural development, the majority of them in NYC are "not plugged in," that is, not connected to the world of arts and culture — a situation that may be common to other cities around the country. The authors also highlight successful strategies for sustainable cultural development, among them, cultivating leadership that encompasses vision and patience.

The report makes clear that there are many obstacles to a successful creative economy, including what the authors refer to as “the elephant in the room” — gentrification and displacement. Affordable space is a big issue. One recommendation is that development should be tied to neighborhood investment and tax incentives that counter displacement.

The report provides a helpful summary of the creative economy movement, which began back in the early 1980s and gained steam with the writings of Richard Florida. There is also an excellent “sources & resources” listing, much of it related to New York City, but including broader studies of the creative economy concept.