Creative Places and Spaces: Day Two
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Creative Places and Spaces: Day Two

The wrap-up panel at Creative Places and Spaces.

The Creative Places and Spaces conference continued for a second day Friday, exploring how collaboration can foster innovation and lead to breakthroughs in city-building. Also, there were rhythmic gymnasts.

20091031cps4.jpg 9:12 a.m. The conference has moved over to MaRS for part two. Collaborative conference hosting! (Actually, that’s kind of a good idea.) No box-heads greeting us today. We are simultaneously relieved and disappointed.
9:55 a.m. David Buckland punctuates a keynote address about using artistic interventions to highlight climate change with video shorts that do just that. (We especially like the projections onto the sides of glaciers.) Like yesterday, we share in his goals and are glad this work is being done. Also like yesterday, we feel like there is more than a tinge of preaching to the long-ago converted. Some more skills-oriented workshops that would equip CPandS attendees to undertake their own projects might be a better use of the knowledge and experience in the room.
10:23 a.m. First drug reference! Lyn Heward from Cirque du Soleil tells the assembled crowd that “sometimes you need to just…” (makes that sucking inhalation sound) “go with the flow.” (Knowing laughter.)
10:34 a.m. Heward goes into Cirque’s artist recruitment strategies. Fascinating to learn about their long-term approach to staff development: they have a database of potential performers with twenty thousand entries, and every so often they invite their favourite prospects for three or four months of training, with no promise of a job, so they can assess not just their artistic and physical skills but personality, fit, etc. Culty or committed?
11:23 a.m. One of the most engaging speakers of the conference thus far is, counter-intuitively, discussing bureaucracy. Author Charles Landry harbours no illusions about the appeal of his subject but he fearlessly plunges ahead: “Nevertheless,” he says bravely, “let us try and make bureaucracy seem interesting.” This feels like one of the best sectors in which to apply the notion of collaboration, for that is one of the areas in which it is most sorely needed and in which there are some concrete avenues that are available for ready pursuit (for instance, sharing information across departments). In short, it is easier to see what collaboration would mean for government than for other sectors.
12:54 p.m. Lunch, followed by group discussions of various topics like the social web and civic collaboration to help develop public policy. A mixed bag, and there’s no sharing with the other groups at the end, which seems unfortunate.
3:54 p.m. We’ve been watching videos for the last little while of work by installation artist Spencer Tunick. (He’s the guy best known for taking photos of large groups of naked people in public places, like the Brooklyn Bridge). We like, but have no idea what the point is supposed to be. These works are collaborative, to be sure, but what lessons can be extrapolated from it?

Collaborative study break!

4:51 p.m. 4:51 Wrap-up session. The general theme of the questions from the floor (this is one of the very few Q and As—more would have been nice) is: okay, we all agree that collaboration is good, but how do we actually bring it about? Tonya Surman, executive directive of the Centre for Social Innovation, says that one of the keys is finding concrete examples that demonstrate the benefits of collaboration: “We need a greater toolkit of stories about how collaborations are achieving social impact,” she says, in order to persuade people to set aside more traditional ways of working.
After two solid days of sessions, it isn’t entirely clear what attendees have been left with, other than a re-enforcement of the conviction they probably already held that collaborating is good. Not that such re-enforcement isn’t in and of itself worthwhile: given that there are still relatively few examples of serious collaborative efforts (MaRS, the CSI, and Artscape are among the leading ones in Toronto), bolstering the cause certainly can’t hurt. But we are left a little dissatisfied. Principles need to be backed up with tools for implementation, and the eager attendees haven’t been given many. Still, Creative Places and Spaces is a conference with heart—a rare feat—and that’s a pretty good place to start.
Photos courtesy of Artscape.