Dear 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.

Our mission 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 aspire.

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:

Talent makes capital dance
Beauty trumps utilitarianism
Past, present and future are all celebrated
There is room for outlandish
Creative thinking is embedded in our way of life
Space abounds for artists to flourish
Creative people and enterprise flock to settle and build
Teaching of all arts is sacrosanct
Nature and people are in balance
Our story of diversity and tolerance is known world-wide
We revere one another’s histories, stories and expressions
Support of the arts is an ongoing commitment, not a brief encounter
Our ravines are as important to us as canals are to Venice and beaches are to Sydney
Novel ideas are valued, differences are welcomed and risk-taking is celebrated
The process of public decision-making is in harmony with a culture of creativity
The fusion of food and culture is unique
Our waterfront entices
Our public spaces attract and excite
Festivals, celebrations and recognition of the arts and culture abound
Our citizens 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.

Perhaps our 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.

Yours sincerely,

THE CREATIVE CITIES LEADERSHIP TEAM