Creative Places and Spaces: Day One
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Creative Places and Spaces: Day One

Photo by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.

Creative Place and Spaces is an occasional conference (it was held once in 2003, once in 2005, and is being held again right now) that brings together an assortment of thinkers to discuss how creativity can help shape and improve our cities. In case you couldn’t manage to make it out yourself, we thought we’d give you a bit of a play-by-play.

9:02 a.m. We are greeted at the Carlu’s elevator by a woman with a box on her head. Other box-headed conference staff wander about, acting as friendly greeters. We take it that this is supposed to get us to ponder the notion of going “outside the box.” Without caffeine we can’t tell if this is awesome or painfully trite.
9:13 a.m. A bugle sounds, much like the one which announces the commencement of a horse race. The practitioners of yoga and players of yoga-appropriate music are dispersing from the stage, on which they have been performing while people file in and get settled with their coffees and notebooks and laptops. CPandS is making its point: conferences can be creative, too. We think the goal is to forestall the usual eye-glazed drone look most conference attendees end up wearing with the charm of the unexpected. It works, a bit.
9:18 a.m. Whoops from the audience for Mayor Miller. The 29% are well represented here.
9:38 a.m. Matt Galloway is interviewing Artscape CEO Tim Jones. Jones says of Toronto: “We need to raise our game as a city. If we are going to address the complex challenges of our city…we have to work together in order to solve them.” Traditional siloed sectors won’t cut it anymore.

Tom Wujec discussing collaboration. Photo by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.

9:48 a.m. Keynote speaker Ken Robinson does the world a service and lets some of the hot air out of the Twitter bubble (we find it so annoying that it causes us to mix our metaphors!): “I sometimes worry, don’t you think, if technology gets in the way of the experience that you’re trying to have?” He speaks for a while about the nature and importance of the imagination and laments our current preference for the “taxonomic frame of mind,” our tendency to prize specialization.
10:55 a.m. The first of several networking breaks. It even says so on the screen: “Networking Break.” Fortunately networking involves an infusion of coffee and bagels.
11:15 a.m. Fascinating video showcasing Melbourne’s laneways, which have become a network of pedestrian-friendly gathering places, including tiny cafés, bars, and galleries. Envious.
11:21 a.m. Richard Florida, giving the second keynote, repeats something Artscape’s Jones said to him: “we have to move from a culture that values creativity as display to a culture that puts creativity to work.” He then moves into a soliloquy based on his forthcoming book, The Great Reset. We are currently in such a period, a “great reset,” during which “the whole nature of the economy and the way people work…and the physical shape of cities changes.” (The Great Depression was another.)
11:58 a.m. Florida has been speaking for more than half an hour. No notes, doesn’t falter. He is as smooth a presenter as you’d expect, but we’re not entirely sure what new thoughts he’s trying to express. The bottom line seems to be: “Collaboration and creativity yay! Traditional territorial/hierarchical/siloed organizational models boo!” We agree, but would like less rhetoric and more focus. He references Jane Jacobs a lot, but she always had a concrete take-away—not just approaches and principles but what those principles would look like in action (for instance, in the physical shape of a city block). More of that would be good here.
2:19 p.m. Ah. Finally a shift to more tangible matters. Katerina Cizek, filmmaker-in-residence at St. Michael’s Hospital, on a panel with representatives from the NFB and the hospital, discussing how film-making can break down barriers between caregivers, patients, and the community at large. The clips from her work are eye-opening.

Troubadours! Creative ones! Photo courtesy of Artscape.

4:32 p.m. Panel on open-access science (for instance, making data collected during research widely available). One of the major limitations on collaboration is that people tend to want credit for work; it’s hard to track credit effectively when there aren’t clear boundaries marking off who has worked on what or accomplished what.
5:10 p.m. Economist Ajay Agrawal: the initial premise of economics is that “we are self-interested, rational optimizers.” Collaboration is mutually beneficial—not necessarily commercially, but in terms of various kinds of currency (efficacy, peer recognition, reciprocity, etc.)—and so collaboration is good.
5:23 p.m. Drinks in the lobby! End of day one.
Exeuent to the gentle strumming of guitars played by box-headed conference greeters.