Mr. Premier and Mr. Mayor,
About a year ago, in a flash of inspiration, your officials brought
together an eclectic group of Torontonians to begin an odyssey.
Though largely unknown to one another, we united in joint purpose,
our odyssey sparked by a creative internal dynamic that both surprised
and inspired us.
was one of discovery: What makes a great creative city? How does
Toronto stack up? How can Toronto take its place among the world’s
great creative cities? Compelling questions and, as we ultimately
determined, so were the answers.
We met often,
we thought deeply and we traveled to learn. We studied London, Barcelona,
Berlin and New York – and yes, Toronto too. We compared our
experiences with those of a partner group from Creative London.
We explored places in our own city rarely or never known to us before.
We were supported tremendously by both your officials and U of T
Professor Meric Gertler and his accomplished team. Together, we
gathered information based on what we saw and insight based on what
we learned. You didn’t ask specifically for this group to
provide a separate commentary; yet we feel compelled to provide
one, not only for you, but for anyone interested.
In drawing our
conclusions and offering our advice, we were driven by a shared
vision for the city. It provides the foundation for our report,
the inspiration on which we collaborated, the goal to which we all
It emerged from
all of us responding to the same challenge: ‘Imagine a Toronto
...’ So we did, and the Toronto we imagined is one where:
and future are all celebrated
There is room
is embedded in our way of life
for artists to flourish
and enterprise flock to settle and build
all arts is sacrosanct
people are in balance
Our story of
diversity and tolerance is known world-wide
We revere one
another’s histories, stories and expressions
the arts is an ongoing commitment, not a brief encounter
are as important to us as canals are to Venice and beaches are
are valued, differences are welcomed and risk-taking is celebrated
of public decision-making is in harmony with a culture of creativity
of food and culture is unique
spaces attract and excite
celebrations and recognition of the arts and culture abound
regard the city as an ongoing cultural project
We began and
ended our odyssey with the premise that in today’s world,
creativity is a necessity – a must have, not a nice to have.
We recognized and later reinforced the belief that there is a direct
link between a flourishing city and the vitality of its creative
sector. We marveled when told that British Prime Minister Tony Blair
had declared that the creative industries are now THE most important
sector in London’s economy, and we came to realize how important
it is for our own leaders to share that truth and wisdom.
From the outset,
we struggled to define both creativity and the creative sector.
The creative sector can be as wide as it is deep, covering a host
of disciplines. Certainly, it is not limited to cultural and artistic
creativity; it can include and indeed overlap with technological
and economic creativity, which interact in much the same way.
In Europe, economic
development and culture see themselves as working in the same domain.
We feel that attitude should prevail here. Perhaps, with a new focus
on innovation emerging in the City and in the Province, the interconnectedness
of economic and artistic creativity is already gaining a toehold.
For us, creativity
is not a commodity to be suddenly dispensed or manufactured at will.
It is more an individual and collective statement of mind, an environment
where it can flourish.
most striking finding is that Toronto need not take a back seat
to any other creative city. This city is on the cusp of a creative
breakthrough. Our institutions, spirit of innovation and diversity
put us in the top echelon. Yet saying it is one thing, believing
it – and believing in ourselves – is quite another.
In the words of Pier Giorgio di Cicco, we need “a new state
of mind, a new modus operandi and a new mythology for Toronto.”
Or as put by Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS, “It’s time
Toronto goes for gold.”
It is within
this spirit and context that we present our findings to you. We
feel privileged to have been part of this creative odyssey. We thank
you both for giving us the opportunity to come together and to engage
actively in the process of great city building.
CITIES LEADERSHIP TEAM