“Don´t use us culture as a tool for economic growth!” is a common objection when we discuss culture and business in Umeå. It´s interesting, because Umeå is one of the best examples of culture driven economic growth in my opinion. In fact, I believe Krister Olsson, the Umeå businessman interviewed in this issue (read it here), is a hero in local development of culture and business.
In the past many great artists and composers were employed by kings, dictators and capitalist patrons of the arts. Of course artists across all genres want to be independent, creating art for arts sake and not for ‘the powers that be’ using the arts for reasons they were never intended. At the same time most artists want an audience, and to create emotions and movement. The more different kinds of culture we experience as an audience, the more likely that our perspectives widen, that we become more curious, creative, and innovative. If citizens participate in a diverse cultural life something happens to the creative climate of the whole municipality.
Culture creates curiosity, and curiosity is the spark of creativity, which in turn feeds the innovative process. Innovation produces new services, products, and design. It’s the engine behind economic growth as well as the hope for a sustainable development in the world.
Umeå2014 European Capital of Culture is an investment in culture driven growth based on a successful history and working towards a legacy of sustainable economic growth and further local and regional development.
Participating in a vibrant cultural life will influence our creative capacity independent of whether we are working in industry, services, or science. Culture driven economic growth is not about a delimited creative and cultural sector, it´s about culture as the oxygen for all sectors. It´s not about ‘the creative class’ (Rikard Florida) as such, it´s about human growth for all citizens.
Umeå started to invest in culture in the mid 1970s and we have invested much more in culture than the average Swedish municipality. Brave investments created a rich and diversified cultural life attractive to the citizens. Many citizens became co-creators in a variety of festivals, sports events, and hundreds of NGO´s.
The result is a booming, dynamic city, attractive to both cultural workers and business investors, as well as students, and new citizens from all over the world. Umeå is one of the most rapidly growing cities in Europe, according to Eurostat.
From the business side, as you will read in the interview, the entrepreneur and real estate developer Krister Olsson is a very good example of how business can contribute to attractiveness of a city and help increase property prices in a win-win for everybody. Private investments can contribute to the cities beauty, making for exciting public places for creative meetings that are beneficial for all business and real estate owners in the region.