Over the past two years the Office of Economic Development and Office of Arts & Culture have been gathering data to better understand Seattle’s creative ecosystem. Check out these two recent reports:
- City of Seattle Creative Economy Report (2019)
- UW Evans Study: Assessing the Creative Economy of Seattle through a Race and Equity Lens (2019)
Four topic areas have consistently emerged and point to the need for more investigation: affordability, youth opportunity, supporting creative workers, and creativity and technology. On May 29 at KEXP we kicked off a series of monthly Mixers in which we invite the community to help the City shape a vision for our creative economy that centers racial equity, affordability, and economic opportunity.
In our first of the series, we highlighted the important relationship between technology and creativity. About 100 people attended, ranging from leaders in the creative sectors including filmmakers, journalists, music producers, visual artists, and marketing professionals, to those beginning their careers, including college students studying video game design and special effects.
The program of the night featured Northwest Film Forum Executive Director Vivian Hua, who moderated a panel with writer, director, and community organizer Netsie Tjirongo and fearless360º Executive Director Sandy Cioffi on the challenges and opportunities for Seattle creatives in engaging with technology. (Learn more about the speakers here.)
Tjirongo and Cioffi, who both have used virtual reality (VR) and 360º video for immersive storytelling, explained that technology has the power to build deeper human connection, empathy, and creativity. In her recent work with youth in the Learning Immersive Technology (LIT) program, Tjirongo saw young people gain a sense of empowerment through their own risk-taking – both in overcoming their lack of familiarity with technology, and in practicing character development and other aspects of storytelling.
While financial investments in VR are heavily focused on gaming, military, and medical applications of the technology, exciting and important VR work is happening in arts, culture, and social justice as well – thanks to decades-long organizing efforts, often led by women.
Cioffi challenged the room to consider how to “use creative tech tools involved in decentralizing power and resources”, as technology can often be used to extract value from communities and perpetuate inequity.
Tjirongo added that to increase equity, we need to make concerted efforts to “support the communities with the least amount of representation in the room” as this technology and related economic opportunity develop.
Following the panel discussion, attendees broke into groups to provide deeper feedback on the ways that technology and creativity intersect in their work. Out of these discussions came a number of suggestions including: how the City could better address challenges in entering the creative workforce; increasing the work spaces where creatives can gather and collaborate; and access to resources for starting businesses, hiring creatives, finding funding, and showcasing creative work. Below are more specifics on what we heard.
- Physical spaces are important to collaboration, knowledge sharing, and community building. As one attendee said, collaboration is key in this gig economy, and having people together in a space facilitates that collaboration.
- These spaces could be subscription-based or could rely on donations.
- Additionally, it would be ideal if new real estate developments were 100% inclusive for community, and arts space was built in tandem with any new development.
Resources for Creatives & Businesses:
- Support students and their entry into careers.
- Support from the City to help facilitate partnerships or mentorship among professionals and organizations.
- Help prepare job applicants – familiarize them with jargon, refine resumes.
- Help break down barriers for those who are starting small businesses (e.g. tax info and support), especially those that are run by artists.
- Support matchmaking of businesses and talent, possibly through a centralized job board for creative jobs and internships.
- Help guide individuals to resources, coaches, and mentors.
- Increase access to technology in schools and in communities.
As always, conversations like these generate new lines of inquiry. Among these questions are: How might we build alliances across tech and art? How can we work to elevate the value of creativity and the arts in the context of automation, artificial intelligence, and other technologies that will change how we work and interact? What is the role of the private sector, and of philanthropy? How can we create opportunities for cross-sector discussion to build understanding and solutions?
These conversations are more important now than ever: the 2019 Creative Economy Report found that Seattle creative workers employed in tech (web developers, for example) are the highest paid in the nation, while creative workers employed in arts and entertainment occupations (such as photographers and musicians) are the lowest paid in the nation. The report also found that women and people of color are underrepresented in certain creative occupations, and that wage disparities exist along job title, race, and gender. We need to hear from you, Seattle’s creative community, to help us better understand the full story behind these disparities and find ways to bridge the gap.
Join us next week on June 26 at Clock-Out Lounge on Beacon Hill for the second Mixer in this series, “Surviving and Thriving in the Creative Gig Economy” with a panel moderated by Washington Filmworks’ Amy Lillard. We’ll have complimentary pizza and soft drinks, and guests 21+ may purchase drinks from the bar. The Mixer is a free event, and all ages are welcome. RSVP here. Spots are filling up fast.
Please mark your calendars for the following two Mixers on July 31 and August 28.