Exploring the Role of the Creative Class in Proliferating the Creative Economy of Baguio City
This paper attempts to understand the role of the creative class in the proliferation of a creative economy in Baguio City. Drawing from the discourse of the reconstruction of Baguio City as a Creative City and from the insights gained by the author during the International Conference on Southeast Asian Crafts and Folk Arts (ICSEACFA), this paper will explore how the creative economy is ultimately driven by the creative class. This paper will synthesize empirical specifics and theoretical posits in order to arrive at a deeper and broader understanding of the creative class and the creative economy in Baguio City.
Evolving Historical Nodes of Baguio City
The city of Baguio traces its roots back to the pre-colonial times when it was still owned by the Ibalois, an indigenous group from the Cordilleras, who utilized the space as a kafagway or ranch for herding their cattle and horses (Gutierrez & Carino, 2009 cited in Estoque & Murayama, 2013). The kafagway was basically a ll_ marshland with a shallow lake. Towards the end of the 19 century, an increasing number of Western colonizers became attracted to the cooler mountain towns in the highlands of Southeast Asian countries, with the belief that lengthy stays in such climates benefitted the body and spirit (Reed, 1999 cited in Estoque & Murayama, 2013). Seeing the potential of the kafagway, it became one of the most popular mountainous destinations in the country. With the entry of the colonizers in the area, the ownership of the kafagway went to the Spaniards who eventually sold it to the Americans in 1898 (Estoque & Murayama, 2013).
The Americans saw the great potential of the kafagway due to its favorable climate and picturesque view. They then began to develop the area as a health resort for American soldiers and civilian employees (City Government of Baguio, 2019). This eventually paved the way for rapid physical development in the area.
Kafagway was chartered as a city by the Americans in the 1900s and was then renamed as “Baguio”. Prill-Brett says that Baguio as a city space is an “American construct evident in the way Baguio was arranged and planned to become conformal to the taste of American colonizers” (Prill-Brett, 2015 cited in Fong, 2017).
Today, Baguio City is known as the “Summer Capital” of the country. It is one of the most dynamic and prominent cities in the Philippines. Baguio is now home to 345,000 residents as of 2015, and has been growing exponentially at a rate pegged at 1.54 percent (Baguio Creative Hub, 2019). Baguio is now comprised of migrants from various ethno-linguistic groups who have now outnumbered the original Ibaloi population. Currently, only 4% of the total Baguio population are Ibalois (Fong, 2017). Baguio is now an educational, trading, tourism, and administrative hub in northern Luzon (Estoque & Murayama, 2013).
Baguio as a Creative City
Baguio City's recognition as the first Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art in the Philippines is a product of “multi-stakeholders” desire to sustain the growth of Baguio City, as one that is driven by sustainable and inclusive development” (Baguio Creative Hub, 2019). On 31 October 2017, Baguio City joined the 180 member cities from 72 countries awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network whose goal is to make creativity an essential driver for sustainable urban renewal and development (Baguio Creative Hub, 2019).
As a creative city of crafts and folk arts, Baguio City envisages the following (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, n.d.): (1) The initiation of development of creative centers dedicated to supporting crafts and folk art, offering workshops, studios, design laboratories, exhibit areas, as well as open collaborative spaces for creators and the general public, thus strengthening the city's creative ecosystem; (2) The setting up of the Baguio City Creative Circuit (BBCC) which will physically link existing buildings and venues to showcase Baguio City's creative spirit, direct the general public towards creativity as an essential element for sustainable urban development; (3) the involvement of creative cities of crafts and folk arts, as well as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take part in the festivities and activities, and provide them dedicated spaces to display creative crafts and folk artworks; and (4) To develop partnerships with members of the network in order to share best practices and promote mutual understanding. Baguio's development goal is especially relevant in a city inhabited by diverse ethnic groups and with a uniquely rich history and tradition, contributing to nation-building (Baguio Creative Hub, 2019).
Baguio’s title as a UNESCO Creative City is well-deserved because Baguio has always placed emphasis on the “value of a distinctive place” (Florida, 2008). As this recognition projects the city as an ideal habitable and comfortable place to live in, Baguio’s main asset is the space in itself (C.F. Sta Maria-Abalos, personal communication, 22 November 2019). To understand this, Florida’s concept of the three Ts must be considered. First, a creative city possesses tolerance. A creative city must be a place that offers tolerant work and social environments (Florida, 2008). It must be a space that accepts people from a wide range of backgrounds, may it be race, gender, indigeneity, profession, etc. Second, the city must have technology and innovation. Lastly, the city must harbor talent (Florida, 2008). It must be a place that attracts human capital (Sta Maria-Abalos, 2019) and thus, be conducive for human flourishing. Florida’s basic argument is that growth is powered by creative people (talent) who prefer places that are ethnically diverse, and are open to new ideas (tolerance) (Montgomery, 2005). The technology is ushered into the mix when concentrations of cultural capital are wedded with new products and processes which lead to business formation, job generation, and economic growth (Montgomery, 2005).
The recognition of Baguio’s new title as a Creative City all boils down to perceiving the city as a space which is prone to reconstruction in order to bear semblance to the varied types of people inhabiting it. To further explain, Park & Burgess said that a “city is not merely a geographical and ecological unit; it is at the same time, an economic unit” (Park & Burgess, 1967). The economic organization of a city is based on the division of labor, and as is evident now, the multiplication of occupations and professions within the limits of the urban population is one of the most striking, and least understood aspects of city life (Park & Burgess, 1967).
In addition, studies discussing the link between the creative city and its economic development are very hard to come by. Despite this seeming dearth in literature available pertaining to the field, it is well-established that the city, as a space, sets its goal to create and organize systems of economic modes of production to ensure the proliferation of capital because it is “central to its survival” (Harvey, 2008). Indeed, Baguio has evolved in terms of its economic mode from the rural settings to that of the establishment of trading centers for agricultural products and crafts from neighboring towns and provinces, to the building of educational centers, export processing zones, call center agencies, etc, provide a way for the city and its people to be sustained.
An examination of Baguio City through this lens ensures that the city deserves the Creative City title. However, based on the arguments espoused by Harvey (2008) and Park and Burgess (1967), a city could not survive with mere creativity because the questions on economic survival of the residents could not be discounted. As Soja aptly said, “the (re) conception of the space is tied to the relations of production...” (Soja, 1996).
The Creative Economy
The underlying premise of the concept of creative economy was that, for the very first time in history, the knowledge and new ideas of a so-called creative class had become the primary source of economic productivity (Seltzer and Bentley, 1999; Florida, 2002; cited in Wilson, 2010). This very notion of harnessing creativity in order to attain and sustain economic growth spawned a frenzy of activities, especially in the United Kingdom, both in terms of increased policy attention and skills development (Wilson, 2010).
The strength of a city's creative economy is measured in the number of businesses and employees, and by the wealth they produce (Montgomery, 2005). Some parts of the creative economy are coherent economic sectors in themselves, case in point are the record and broadcasting industries (Montgomery, 2005). Other industries, such as deign, architecture, and industrial design input into industrial and consumer goods, feeding into a range of economic sectors. The cultural or creative industries include the performing arts, the music industry, publishing, the craft industry, design and fashion, and the visual arts (Montgomery, 2005). These various industries combine cultural expression and creativity with material production, tradable goods, and, to an extent, even market-based consumption (Montgomery, 2005). Ultimately, these industries work to reinforce each other and this very dynamic of the creative industries form the bedrock of the creative economy.
The link between creativity, creative industries, the creative class, and creative economics is not a mere correlation. Deep-seated empirical facts and theoretical posits are needed to be considered prior to understanding how the creative class contributes to creative industries, what creativity means, and just how a creative economy is arrived at. Montgomery cited Howkins (2001) to illustrate this point. Accordingly, “creativity is not new and neither is economics, but what is new is the nature and extent of the relationship between them, and how they combine to create extraordinary value and wealth” (Howkins, 2001 cited in Montgomery, 2005). Despite this, the exact nature of the relationship between economics and creativity remains difficult to identify. There are some members of the academe who are concerned with the “possibility that creativity is being called into service of the economy, with an „instrumental rationality"” reminiscent of Adorno and Horkheimer's (1944) criticism of the Enlightenment “Project” (Wilson, 2010). Similarly, there are qualms about the tendency of creativity being subordinated by the concept of innovation (Schlesinger, 2009 cited in Wilson, 2010). Thus, the task of understanding the qualities of a creative economy becomes a tedious process.
To answer the conundrum regarding the relationship between creativity, the creative class, and the creative economy, Wilson (2010) argued that a requalification of creative economy must be made. Wilson, urged the public to rethink the common approach towards creativity, the creative industries, and the creative economy, with particular focus as to how the relations among and between these concepts are to be understood. This rethinking is needed because there is a danger that the emerging trend of cultural policies prioritizes the rhetoric of the creative industries over and above any further exploration of creativity and its wider implications to economic, social, and cultural spheres (Wilson, 2010). He stressed that a genuinely creative economy does not need to come at the expense of the distinctiveness of the creative industries and those working in the cultural sector (Wilson, 2010). The creative industries, are, and will continue to remain, as extremely important sector of the economy. Wilson argues that artists, musicians, film-makers, story-tellers, and other cultural workers play vital roles in the development of a creative economy, but this is not due to the fact that they are the only creative community. The main attribute for such relationship is that, this community’s work involves imaging other, better worlds; other, better products and services; and even being other, better people (Wilson, 2010).
- Quote paper
- Julie Anne Dimapilis (Author), 2019, The Role of the Creative Class in Proliferating the Creative Economy of Baguio City, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/923343