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Creative Industries and the Economy of Durham

The arts have been an integral part of society since the beginnings of civilization, contributing to the culture and economy of communities and improving the quality of life. The art industry’s underlying motive is atypical of modern industries: creating art for the sake of creating art. The arts’ ability to enrich lives, unite people across diverse backgrounds, and help children develop cognitive ability and discipline are just wonderful positive externalities from creating art for the sheer enjoyment. Economically, the arts are also valuable, directly providing a source of jobs and growth in the local economy. The presence of the arts in a community also increases its attractiveness as a place to work, live, and play, bringing in new residents, businesses, and tourists, which makes the arts an undoubted key factor in the economic growth and development of a city.

Durham has experienced a similar history, and is now a thriving city that survived and prospered after the decay of its manufacturing industry. Having a vibrant arts scene has been crucial to Durham’s recent economic success because of its increased appeal to the young, creative individuals who, as a class, are the key to driving economic growth.  Durham consistently ranks in the top 10 in having a large creative class, with high percentage of higher degree holders and those in creative working class. Durham is also projected to have one of the highest growth rates of creative industry jobs in the nation. Read more: The Arts in the Economy of Durham_Revised

[1] Florida, Richard. “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Washington Monthly May 2002.

[2] Florida, Richard. “Where the Super-Brains Are.” Web log post. Creative Class. 31 Aug. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. <http://www.creativeclass.com/creative_class/2010/08/31/where-the-super-brains-are/>.

[3] DCMS (2001), Creative Industries Mapping Document 2001 (2 ed.), London, UK: Department of Culture, Media and Sport, http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/publications/4632.aspx

[4] Glassberg, Ronnie. “Tobacco campus plans outlined – Capitol hopes to start on downtown project by summer, finish work within five years.” The Herald-Sun 24 February 2000: A1.

[5] Skalski, Ginny. “Upbeat about downtown After years of hype and dashed hopes, rebirth may finally be on the way.” The Herald-Sun 7 November 2004: A1.


  1. I enjoyed your paper. It might be interesting for you to try to predict what will happen to Durham’s arts scene and its inhabitants as the city gentrifies. At what point will the ‘bohemians’ (artists, performers, etc) want to leave Durham for another city?

  2. This was a very interesting topic, Siyu. I really enjoyed your presentation because it focused on a topic that many times people overlook when discussing the actual economy of a city.
    In my understanding, art is an important amenity to attract people to an area. At the same time, the larger is the population of an area , the larger is the potential clientele for those involved in the art business, meaning artists and dealers may be attracted to more populous areas. The interdependence of these effects would be an interesting topic to debate.

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