Imagine a toronto...

4. Connectivity. Creative cities need the connecting infrastructure to support their creative ecology.
It is an ecosystem in which talent thrives, creative enterprises flourish, and where there is a balance among culture, economic development and social inclusion.

Creative City Components: Many of the components of a successful creative city already exist in Toronto. The region has creative people with innovative ideas who work in creative industries, a wide range of viable creative sectors, existing and potential space for creative use, and several public and nonprofit bodies concerned with fostering creative activity in their respective fields63. The group of creative industry leaders assembled to support this project have consistently and compellingly argued that a key missing ingredient is a strategy for connecting all these individual pieces and building a more cohesive, integrated and effective creative infrastructure within the city-region. This type of strategy has to include connectivity of all kinds: between sectors, between different arts support organizations, between different neighbourhood programs, between the public and private sectors to develop new partnerships, between creative activity and appropriate space, and between different orders of government to streamline creativity- related public policy.

Organizational Infrastructure: Toronto has organizations that support creative industries and activity. There are various funding bodies, foundations and arts councils, industry associations, large cultural institutions and arts-support organizations. Some parties already work to promote the various types of connectivity referred to above. For example, the City of Toronto has initiated and/or supported a number of projects over the years (such as Artscape, Fresh Arts, the Toronto Fashion Incubator and the Brickworks project) with a goal of strategically developing the creative environment in Toronto.

Artscape focuses on silo-busting as a key way to build creative communities building and provide affordable space to artists. The University of Toronto has recently created two new entities with a strong link to the broader creativity agenda of the city-region: an Arts Council to forge dynamic partnerships with cultural organizations throughout the GTA, and a Cities Centre to integrate research and teaching on urban issues across the university while also building stronger connections with public sector and community- based organizations in the region. However, work on the creative economy still often proceeds in isolation, supporting an array of worthy initiatives and ends, but lacking the connective tissue to turn Toronto into a creative powerhouse.

This project’s research revealed a clear contrast between the successes of city-regions with strong connective infrastructure and the struggles of those that lack these vital ties. New York City has a great deal of creative activity, but its industries and projects often work in isolation, each scrambling for survival in a city that has become too expensive and offers too little support to its artists and creative types.64 The result has been a declining creative image and creative practitioners fleeing Manhattan. In acknowledging the challenges now confronting its cultural producers, Mayor Bloomberg has recently announced a new city office to provide assistance to the city’s struggling arts and cultural groups. Resting with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, this new office begins the task of connecting elements of the creative realm – in this case arts organizations, space and financing.65 This small start signals the recognition that the creative sector needs strategically- connected support if the city is to benefit from its activity.

London, on the other hand, fosters strong connections across creative bodies and sectors, and enjoys a reputation for ‘getting it right’ as a creative city. London has a long history of intermediary organizations working on creativity-based neighbourhood regeneration and community development. Also, the UK national government’s acknowledgement that creative industries play a critical role in the economy’s health opened public funding channels and lent credibility to the creative economy agenda in London. An inquiry into how best to support the creative industries took these factors into consideration and came to the conclusion that a new entity called Creative London could provide the overall strategic context lacking in the city, a coherent voice to promote and advocate for the creative industries, and to forge connections between the many delivery agencies working across London.66 Creative London refers to itself as “the plumber, promoter and planner of the capital’s creativity.”67

BELOW: It is vitally important to connect the many different activities, practitioners, organizations, community projects, and support programs that generate Toronto’s creative energy. This creativity is not limited to the arts and cultural industries but also serves as the wellspring of innovative dynamism in Toronto’s knowledge-intensive and science-based industries.

London’s experience points to a few valuable lessons for Toronto:

Connecting people and organizations working to promote creativity is important, but it must be accompanied by the connection of projects to vital resources. By unblocking bottlenecks (such as difficulty accessing funding and lack of appropriate business support) that limit the success of creative enterprise, Creative London fulfills its ‘plumber’ function. Other jurisdictions such as the cities of Chicago and San Francisco have access to sales, hotel, and gas taxes specifically earmarked to support creative activity strategically. Toronto needs to consider its resource base for cultural support, allocate current resources to reflect these priorities, and also leverage new sources of funding to ensure the continued success and growth of its creative and cultural activity.

Connective infrastructure can provide a vital missing component to a city that has plenty of talent, creative activity, and initiatives to support creative industries, but lacks an overall strategic approach. The Toronto region lacks the kind of infrastructure that could:

— Perform a coordinating function to transcend the many individual creative silos working in isolation from one another
— Ensure a comprehensive system of support mechanisms for creative industries
— Promote creativity in all its guises
— Provide a forum to share ideas about creative Toronto
— Develop new initiatives to support creative activity and enterprise
— Put a spotlight on the many social and economic benefits of prioritizing creativity in the Toronto region
— Coordinate and complement the many organizations working at the neighbourhood level to address local needs

In short, Toronto needs infrastructure that can connect and coordinate creative elements at and between two levels – city-wide and neighbourhood.

Opportunities: Connecting Toronto’s Creative Elements

13. Develop New Infrastructure Dedicated to Connecting and Promoting Creative Toronto
Toronto needs a coordinating mechanism dedicated to developing and mobilizing the region’s creative strategy collaboratively with the many partners and participants in and around the city. This could be a networked, multi-stakeholder, umbrella organization. It could be an office situated within an existing structure or an independent organization or a model yet to be determined. Whatever its form and structure, it needs to span the public, private and non-profit sectors to be effective.

This infrastructure’s mandate would be to enhance the creative potential of the Toronto region. More specifically, it would be charged with:
— Providing a focal point for the many creative projects, activities and organizations in the Toronto region
— Acting as a connector and convener of those working on creative projects in the city
— Developing and promoting a strategy that recognizes cultural activities and creative industries as key drivers of economic vitality and social inclusion in the Toronto region.
— Fostering an environment that encourages creativity and innovation to flourish
— Being an advocate of the creativity agenda to all levels of government
— Articulating the concept of cities and creativity through creative industries research, benchmarking
— Serving as an honest broker of civic engagement on issues of creativity
— Marketing and communicating the creativity agenda and ‘wins’ to a wide audience of public, private and non-profit stakeholders
— Moving projects arising from the Strategies for Creative Cities project forward – either directly or by involving other parties

14. Provide Ongoing, Stable Funding for Creative Projects
Without financial resources, projects to nurture and grow Toronto’s creative sector – by targeting people, space, or enterprise – cannot achieve their goals. The provision of stable funding for creative projects must be addressed so that Toronto can build a support system worthy of the region’s creative talent and potential. This requires a renewed commitment at all levels of government, as well as a coordinated campaign to engage private- sector actors in a focused and effective way. Without this type of consistent, secure funding, it will be difficult to act effectively on any of the opportunities presented in this report.