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The “Creative City” movement is a recent international trend that highlights the role of municipalities in fostering a climate of diversity, understanding, talent, creativity and innovation. In turn, these cities experience significant economic, social and environmental returns, and are better prepared to participate in the new global economy. This recent increase in awareness of the role of culture in municipal development has repositioned culture from being a beneficiary of government to being a driving force of sustainable municipal development.


Creativity Index

In 2002, the public policy academic Richard Florida argued that modern society is entering a new era - the “creative age.” He went on to say that cities with a strong “creative index” (a combination of empirical data based on diversity, innovation, tolerance, talent and technology) experience higher economic growth and perform better on the global market. According to him, the “creativity industry” has replaced the post-modern manufacturing industry and has become the driving force of today’s economy.

A 2008 survey revealed that Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) ranked 5th on this index among Canadian municipalities, and Canada ranked 11th on the international scene. HRM also has the highest concentration of artists and cultural producers in the Atlantic region, and ranks 4th in Canada.

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Creative Class

The “creative class” encompasses all of the individuals, organizations and enterprises that either creates, or fosters creativity, imagination or innovation. This includes artists, musicians, researchers, doctors, hairdresser, entrepreneurs, dancers, web designers, new product developers, scientists, etc. Municipalities that value and nurture their creative capital perform better economically. For example, creative individuals often choose to relocate in cities that inspire them, which will attract companies looking for talent and provide high-paying jobs and a strengthened service industry, hence an increased level of community livability, cultural vitality and quality of life for all.

In HRM, the creative sector encompasses $40 billion or 60% of its total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) output. On a national level, these numbers equal 50% of Canada’s GDP, which is more than the agricultural, mining and forestry sectors combined.

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Fourth-Pillar Approach

In 2001, the Australian cultural policy analyst Jon Hawkes argued for the need of a cultural perspective in municipal development. His model of “culture as the fourth-pillar of municipal sustainability” further demonstrated that culture builds vibrant cities where people want to live, work and play, and that these cities adopting this development model would then be more likely to better perform on a social, environmental and economic level. This model has since been endorsed by the UNESCO and a number of cities around the world and all levels of government in Canada. This has helped reposition culture as a most-important development tool, rather than as a subsidiary of government. In some cases, this strategic approach has helped revitalized entire neighborhoods and better prepared municipalities to face the global market.

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Cultural Planning

In response to the “Creative City” movement, some progressive municipalities have adopted the “cultural planning” model - a cross between urbanism (urban planning) and cultural programming, hence the term “cultural programming.” In 2009, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) was one of the first Canadian municipality to implement this structure.

Cultural planning helps identify needs and trends, informs policies and guides long-term cultural investments.

By using an integrated approach (with internal and external partnerships), targeted strategies can help create the vitality and vibrancy necessary to bring inspiration, imagination and innovation to the creative sector, which in turn will provide for economic development (employment, tourism, new product development, exportation, etc.) and social development (gathering places, celebratory events, sense of ownership, identity and pride, affordable housing, etc.). Cultural planing is an important quality of life advancement tool, wether it is through the beautification of public spaces, heritage preservation, or the creation of landmarks for visitors. Cultural planning can help initiate community dialogue, assist in resolving conflicts, bring healing to a community, create safer communities, and foster a more balanced lifestyle.

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The HRM Cultural Plan

Upon a thorough consultation process with the community, HRM adopted its first Cultural Plan in 2006. The plan provides overarching strategic directions to manage the region’s cultural assets and guide all cultural investments. The result is a comprehensive cultural policy that will help HRM achieve its long-term goals.

The five strategic directions identified in the plan are:

Strategic Direction 1: Focused Service Delivery & Partnerships
Strategic Direction 2: Cultural Access & Equity
Strategic Direction 3: Promote and Reinforce Community Character & Heritage
Strategic Direction 4: Life-Long Learning & Creative Development
Strategic Direction 5: Investment & Promotion

The plan emphasizes that culture is a key asset to HRM and a pillar of economic and community growth. Culture can help position HRM as a vibrant, livable and prosperous community. Investment in culture will propel the municipality forward, towards the new creative economy and provide added opportunity to compete on the global market.

The Cultural Plan, along with the HRM Regional Plan, 2006; the HRM by Design Plan, 2009; the Community Development Business Plan, 2008; the Community Facility Master Plan, 2008 , the Economic Development Strategy, 2005; the Immigration Action Plan, and other HRM planning strategies, are laying the foundation for the sustainable HRM of tomorrow.

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HRM Cultural Operating Strategy

More recently, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) also adopted a 5-year operating strategy to implement the strategic directions identified in the Cultural Plan. Adopted in October 2008, this strategy was prepare to help deliver the first phase of the Cultural Plan and establishes the programs, services and partnerships that will be established until 2013.

The 2008/13 Cultural Operating Plan focuses on the following priorities:


Priority One: Arts and Community Cultural Development
Priority Two: Cultural and Heritage Spaces And Places
Priority Three: Cultural Industry Capacity Building
Priority Four: Cultural Planning

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Economic Development Strategy

Until recently, economists have been reluctant to rely on culture as a possible determinant of economic success. Much of this reluctance stems from the notion that culture is broad and is difficult to measure. As the concept of the ‘creative economy’ becomes increasingly palpable, so does the tools by which we measure its success and the partnership that can be developed. If culture is indeed the customary beliefs and values of a community, we must now focus on those that that revitalize and embolden a city’s infrastructure and economy. The Halifax Regional Municipality’s Economic Development Strategy (2005-2010)

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Cultural Indicators

Cultural indicators can give us information about a societies’ vitality. Cultural indicators can identify significant trends and assign focus to areas that affect quality of life. Recently, communities around that world have being incorporating cultural indicators that have an evaluative purpose involving implicit or explicitly normative criteria.

The use of cultural indicators is essential to ensure that culture is consolidated as one of the pillars of community development. During the last few years, interest in cultural indicators has grown, and several reports on this subject have been written and published.

It is the goal of HRM Cultural Initiatives to develop and utilize cultural indicators as a means of reporting on the vitality and liveability of the municipality. These statistics and benchmarks will in turn serve future policy and program development.