Saturday, December 08, 2012

Creative Class Chic Is Dying

Out: Portland. In: Pittsburgh. Over the next few weeks, we will read dozens of articles describing what we will leave behind in 2012 and what 2013 portends. Portland, Oregon is the past. Pittsburgh is the future. But that was 2011/2012. For 2012/2013, I head to Canada:

“I’ve never lived anywhere else because no other city inspires me like Hamilton does,” he adds. “I guess others are starting to find out what’s been going on here. That’s OK by me . . . the more the merrier.”

Hamilton is already home to more than its fair share of the nation’s best known musicians, writers, visual artists and filmmakers: including songwriter and novelist Ian Thomas and his actor/producer brother, Dave; comedian and TV producer Steve Smith; musician and music producer Daniel Lanois; actor Graham Greene; comic actor Eugene Levy; movie producer Ivan Reitman; comic actor Martin Short; and, since 2003, playwright Sky Gilbert, who’s typically unequivocal about his reasons for moving there.

“I was fed up trying to find a home in Toronto’s vanishing neighbourhoods or among the walls of condos,” Gilbert says.

“It’s a city for rich people on one end and ghettoized, frightened suburbanites on the other.

“I love living here. Hamilton has enriched my work. I’ve found a lively, responsive audience: working-class, middle-class, honest and curious. It’s like Toronto used to be, a long time ago. Something’s going on here.”

Emphasis added. What Toronto used to be is Rust Belt Chic. Now, home to Richard Florida, Canada's largest city is Creative Class cool. Talent is fleeing the oppressive expense, cookie cutter urbanity, and the parochial fortresses of wealth. Toronto is dying.

Hamilton is ascendant. It is Rust Belt Chic, today. It is the anti-Toronto:

Martinus Geleynse, a filmmaker, publisher and politician-in-the-making, has been a professional activist in and observer of Hamilton’s burgeoning political and cultural life for five years.

“Hamilton prides itself on not being Toronto . . . or any other city,” he says. “It has a tough past, but no regrets. You take Hamilton on its own terms.”

Geleynse, who has run for city council, publishes Urbanicity, a monthly broadsheet and website that tracks Hamilton’s progress on municipal policy, urban development and economics, contentious public issues and culture.

He’s also director of Hamilton24, an annual series of six festivals that invite emerging filmmakers to produce a complete short film in 24 hours.

“There are so many creative people moving here from Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, London, it’s almost like the Wild West rush,” Geleynse says.

Emphasis added. Hamilton doesn't need Richard Florida to tell it what it should be. Legacy cities have suffered through enough brain drain boondoggles. Hamilton's greatest asset, warts and all, is its unique sense of place. Hamilton has a soul.

Creative Class Chic didn't save any cities. We've cycled through the urban fad and settled on the backwaters of globalization. The Innovation Economy has tipped from divergence to convergence. The world is flat, not spiky. Time for Creative Class theory to retire and enjoy South Beach.

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