Creative Places: Nurturing Creative Communities

I am in a unique position to leverage communities and networks to make creative ideas happen. It’s not an easy job but it is an exciting one. There are a lot of unknowns as well as constant change. I do my best to arm myself with the best people and tools around because let me tell you – it’s not a one gal gig. Another thing I try and do as often as possible is get out of town to see what other cities do and how they harness their creativity. Cue REMIX Academy event on the Sunshine Coast.

Presented as part of the Horizon Festival of Arts & Culture and taking place at The Innovation Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, the event drew speakers from around Australia and around the world and explored the concept of Creative Places: Nurturing Creative Communities.

Before I jump in though, I just have to acknowledge the true soul stirring beauty of the creative arts. How it can surprise, delight and enliven the soul.


Arriving at the pre-mix party at Caloundra Regional Gallery for The Sunshine Coast Art Prize award, I was given the most in-depth and colourful welcome to the area with an acknowledgement to Country that was Storytelling in its true form. It painted a picture of the landscape, the people and the purpose of place.  Beside me, I felt an incredible energy emanating from a figure in the crowd. Drawn to look over I saw the person move away towards the back of the room. While the official speeches wound down, more and more people turned to face away from the podium and to this little tucked away area where a microphone had been propped. What happened next can’t really be described so I’ll link you to a video of Gennady Papizh and you can do your best to pretend you were in the room to witness this. Other worldy. Something I will never forget.

Ok, back to reality now. The thing that took me all the way up to the Sunshine Coast in the first place was:

  • >> What are the key ingredients that contribute to successful creative cities and communities?
  • >> How can the arts influence and shape urban development projects? How do we think about holistic place-making when thinking about the infrastructure of cities?
  • >> Is the growth of a creative city largely organic or can we engineer it through tools such as policy and investment?
  • >> How do we balance top down with community empowerment and grass roots cultural activity?
  • >> How do we move beyond the cookie-cutter approach where cities simply seek to replicate the ‘Silicon Valley model’ towards building a more complex creative ecology with arts and culture embedded at their core?

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast

There never is a neat little answer that works across the board, but there are a lot of case studies for what is working and where we can go from here. Below I will share Part 1 of my notes, some ideas presented and quotes from the speakers.

The Death of the Artist

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Peter Tullin and Simon Cronshaw, Co-Founders of & REMIX Summits took us on a journey to explore local and international trends shaping the cultural and creative industries and challenged that it was impossible to be an artist without also being a business person to some degree. Don’t we know the hustle?! That “art” (in the broadest sense) is a product of collaborations, of insights, of relationships, of fundraising, of promotion… the list goes on.

Engineering Creative Communities

IMG_5736The Silicon Valley Model isn’t replicable everywhere, nor should it be. We need to be thinking about what are the next creative cities, in 5 or 10 years? Trends are seeing startups follow the artists, back to places like New York, London and Berlin. It’s not enough to build a hub, proclaim yourself as an innovation capital and wait for the innovators to come. Creative communities are built from the ground up. They are unique and attractive because of the talent that exists within them and the momentum they build. They become spectacular where there are creative collisions. No, this is not a new idea, but it is an important one.

Creator Spaces, such as Governer’s Island ( start as interesting creative places that always have something going on. This particular island is starting to attract tech and innovation growth, so it will be interesting to see it evolve over the coming years.

I can’t help but think of the arts as a honeypot that attracts the bees – motivated workers who want a taste of the sweet scene being shared by others. It’s a safe bet that the dynamism will motivate, perhaps even propel them. It’s the hope that some of that magical energy, awe and wonder will rub off on them and make their pursuit just that little bit shinier by way of context.


“Innovation opportunities happen at the intersection of different disciplines” – Alan Noble, Chief Engineer / MD Google Australia.

Back in the day of the first coffee houses people would come together without boundaries around their professions and simply interact with one another. Think philosophers with artists, doctors with poets, scientists with playwrights.

An example of this hybrid melting pot of great minds is Second Home in London. Their cultural program is imbedded into the framework of this unique coworking space, which understands that “exposure to new ideas, provocations and thinkers makes you more creative in your professional life”. Read more of their story here:

It is important for entrepreneurs, especially those working in tech, to consider the human element of their product or service. How will someone interact with this new idea? Creative collisions can force cross-disciplinary thinking and help round out some of those solutions. Creative ideas can enhance tech brands especially – filling the void of engaging, high quality content that matches the calibre of the product.

An amazing example of this cross-pollination was the case study of a tech accelerator being run out of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, with the outcomes to

  • IMG_5738>> innovate and remain relevant in an increasingly digital world
  • >> keep delighting audiences – in person and online – and enable them to go deep into museum collections, beyond the physical display
  • >> achieve efficiencies and improve our business performance.
  • Named ‘Mahuki’, the program helps entrepreneurs understand the potential of the cultural sector both in New Zealand but also the potential globally.

Using public spaces, specifically in the cultural sector, is a key trend we will see take off. Another example is Start Space, at The State Library Victoria, which will enable early stage entrepreneurs a place to explore ideas and will feature an e-town hall to rival that of Apple HQ: