Report finds Philadelphia is a creative force

It may be difficult to quantify creativity, but a new report issued by Philadelphia’s office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy finds the city 70 percent more creatively vital than the national average.

“Creative Vitality In Philadelphia” uses employment and sales numbers to rank Philadelphia with other cities in terms of economic impact and community engagement. But those numbers can be tricky.

The report uses the Creative Vitality Index — a complex formula developed by a survey organization based in Colorado. It gathers data such as the number of artists employed as staff, the number of tickets sold for performances, even the sales volume of books and records. Compared with the national average, the Philadelphia nonprofit sector is five times stronger although employment is 15 percent weaker.

Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer says the numbers don’t reflect freelance or part-time artists — for example it acknowledges only 40 professional dancers in the entire city.

“It counts only dancers from Pennsylvania Ballet and maybe Philadanco, which might be the only dancers employed for a enough number of weeks in the year by a single employer to be counted as dancers,”  said Steuer. “So clearly there are some gaps.”

This report will help Alan Greenberger rewrite the city’s zoning codes. The deputy mayor for economic development wants to transform the city’s old industrial facilities into artist-friendly live-work spaces.

“Kensington, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, parts of Germantown, these are all places that were the backbone of industrial base,” said Greenberger. “A lot of that industry isn’t there, but the facilities still are, and they can serve a live-work environment.”

Many old industrial warehouses and factories have already been co-opted by enterprising artists, often illegally. New zoning codes would bring them into accordance with Licenses and Inspections.

The city’s office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy plans to hold a public meeting in January to vet the numbers in the Creative Vitality report, to find out what weakness to address and what strengths to build on.

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