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The Otis Report on the Creative Economy in Zócalo Public Square

The Otis Report on the Creative Economy in Zocalo Public Square

How L.A. Can Keep Its Creative Hive Buzzing

By Paul Bisceglio
Los Angeles isn’t fantasizing when it calls itself America’s creative capital–the numbers back it up. Economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez rattled them off at a panel sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to discuss the business of creativity: 355,000 jobs are directly tied to the city’s creative industries, and 620,000 jobs are related in some way. More than 10 percent of Los Angeles county’s GDP comes from these careers.
But just because creativity is one of Los Angeles’ defining features doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be defended. Ritter-Martinez, who was the principal contributor to a 2014 report on the city’s creative economy by Otis College of Art and Design, joined City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural affairs general manager Danielle Brazell and Maker City L.A. co-founder Sharon Ann Lee to discuss how to make the city a better place to make art in front of a full room at the Goethe Institut Los Angeles.
In the wake of the recession, Los Angeles, like cities around the country, has limited spending on the arts. And at the same time, increasingly, other cities are learning how to be creative and muscling in on L.A.’s turf: As the panel’s moderator, Los Angeles Times “Culture Monster” founding editor Lisa Fung, noted, only 22 out of 106 major studio films last year were actually filmed in L.A.
So, is Los Angeles losing its grip on innovation? How can it keep its reputation alive?
The grander challenge that the city faces, the panelists agreed, is a basic lack of understanding about how much value creativity can bring to communities. Part of the conversation focused on what has broadly come to be referred to as the “creative economy,” a catch-all phrase for professions that, Ritter-Martinez argued, encompasses all businesses and people that are involved in producing “creative content”—from visual and performing arts to furniture and toy manufacturers.
“Just because you’re not an artist doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in what you do,” she said. “Creativity permeates almost every aspect of our economy.” She cited the example of Wet, a maker of elaborate fountains that are conventionally classified as “fabricated metal products,” but are deeply artistic in design. Read more here.