We’re being told by politicians that the way out of the global economic mess is for the creatives, the artists, the innovators, the makers and the doers to ride to the rescue. Our best hope, we’re told, is the people that don’t follow the rules or conventions. How ironic.
I may be wrong about this, but I don’t know of any artists that choose to make their creative environment an anonymous cube, such as you find in Fortune 500 companies all over the planet. What does that tell us? We want creativity, but our most munificent companies value it so little, that they aren’t prepared to provide any more space than that afforded by a standard office cube, located on some God-forsaken, out-of-town industrial estate, where property is already dirt cheap and the view non-existent. You can stare out at other company’s car parks.
Meanwhile, down-town urban areas suffer decay and desertion, as the price of commercial property spirals out of control and the footfall necessary to keep a business district vibrant and alive is sucked out of the centre of most cities and towns, relocated to these industrial detention centres, devoid of services, cafes, shops, galleries and any other points of interest. I guess the companies involved, having shrunk the footprint of the average employee’s working space, also resented them having somewhere else to go at lunch time or after work. Keeping them shackled to their desks, throughout lunch and after work, seems like a way to increase output for no additional cost. Yeah, right.
What we know is that the politicians are right. If you locate vibrant, creative industries in the centre of town, the local economy magically revives. So does the wider economy. We also know that the city centres are crammed full of boarded-up, unoccupied, tragically empty commercial property, bedaubed with the now trite, derivative and unoriginal graffiti you find all over the globe and vandalised beyond economic repair. This soft of environment is further driving people that might have ventured into town centres away, for fear of the crime and relative isolation. Surveillance cameras don’t make people feel safe in deserted streets, a vibrant place with people, things to do and places to go does.
Artists know how to set up a creative space, so that they feel inspired to create and give of their best. They’re airy places, with light and warmth, space to move, places to contemplate, think and muse, with colours, textures, fabrics, music, scents, books, media, interaction and individuality. They have tranquillity and excitement in equal measure.
If the powers that be were serious about fostering creativity, innovation and aesthetic beauty, while also being serious about regenerating their urban environments, they would penalise companies for locating vast workforces in sterile, remote, industrial parks, placing them in office cubicles like just so many battery hens. Commercial property that remained unoccupied for too long would be sequestered and given to artists and creative people, so that they could work in adequate spaces, for much less than the commercial rents the property developers insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that their run down premises are worth.
The very existence of these creative industries in previously unoccupied and derelict offices, abandoned by traditional companies, would act as a magnet for services, customers, people and other shops and attractions to move in. It would start a virtuous circle of locally-based recovery, allowing people to afford to do their best work in some pretty good places and prevent the mind-numbing brain-death that befalls everybody that has ever been required to dwell in a corporate cube. The consequence of that is that vast legions of people would begin to imagine, think and create once again.
We are all artists at heart. Some of us become battery hens. All of us should be empowered to do what we do best. We could do this, with sufficient political will. What is lacking is the sponsorship of the biggest corporations on the planet, who have demonstrated that they believe people are to be held in contemptible cubicles and required to put all of their hours into corporate concerns exclusively. We’ve all seen where that has gotten us. That philosophy simply hasn’t worked. It caused the urban decay, the collapse of the commercial property market, the destruction of creative industries and the all pervasive economic malaise.
Cube dwelling on remote industrial estates may be the reason why your recently graduated son or daughter may have little prospect of finding a job, let alone embarking on a career that nurtures and develops their unique, creative talents. Cube dwelling on remote industrial estates is a price that the populace cannot afford to pay. Even the companies that think it makes financial sense are demonstrably wrong.
When will somebody take the initiative and try another way?