Austin is part of a new global initiative to find ways to support the creative class. On October 29, Austin was named one of 18 international cities working together to find innovative solutions to the challenges facing the creative sector, including the inequality and financial burden exacerbated by COVID-19.
Participating with Austin in the Leadership Exchange program of the World Cities Culture Forum, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies & Google Arts and Culture, are: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chengdu, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal , New York, Paris, Stockholm, Sydney, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich.
Local government and creative leaders in each city were tasked with converting their cities into laboratories and working together on one of seven challenges over the next two years. Each city shares information with its twin cities as well as the larger group.
Topics to be covered include:
Support culture as an expression of democratic participation
Equal access to affordable creative space
Addressing endangered cultural venues
Creation of models of cultural funding that encompass various art forms
Using data to map access to artistic activities
And ensuring inclusion in the Cultural Olympiad, a program of cultural events that accompanies the Olympic Games
“As we continue to grapple with the devastating effects of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we work together to make life better in our cities. Culture and creativity have the power to accelerate our economic recovery and unite our communities in these challenging times. By bringing cities from around the world together, we have a unique opportunity to learn from each other, ”said Justine Simons OBE, Chair of the World Cities Culture Forum, which began on the initiative of the Mayor of London.
Austin executives will be working on two of the seven projects over the next 24 months. The first is a collaboration with the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne to provide better access to affordable creative space. “Austin, Sydney and Melbourne will share strategies to improve equitable access to long-term, affordable creative space and the capacity of the creative community,” notes a publication.
The second project will connect the capital with Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chengdu, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal and Stockholm in terms of cultural mapping and data. The cities “will share and develop solutions to support heritage mapping, activities and participation in their cities.” According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the goal is to share ideas to empower each city’s culture.
“By bringing together cultural professionals from city governments around the world, the World Cities Culture Forum’s Leadership Exchange can stimulate and advance problem-solving for cities’ greatest challenges,” said Kate D. Levin, director of arts at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Despite the unique hurdles faced this year, institutions and individuals are meeting in the moment and developing creative solutions that show how important culture will be to the recovery effort. “
And the work is already underway. Over the past seven months, city officials have met virtually to discuss COVID-19 and its ongoing destruction of cultural institutions, particularly in the theater and live music sectors.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has halted most international travel, city officials will continue to meet virtually with the hope of eventually getting together for a face-to-face event.