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The Creative Ecosystem: What it means to Laguna Beach

Brought to you by Visit Laguna Beach

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things…” – Henry Miller

Our current culture is no longer defined by industry and production, but instead, by creativity and technological innovation. The desired population to contribute to our society and help keep it moving forward is that of creatives and creative-supporters – often collectively termed a creative ecosystem.

This ecosystem helps to cultivate innovative thought and people, and incubate distinctively original places and experiences. Its existence encourages similarly-minded people to visit and participate in those destinations and the activities offered at those locations. 

the creative anna hills

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Laguna has a long history of creativity: Anna Hills was a pioneering artist

For any creative destination, it is essential to acknowledge and care for all components in the creative ecosystem, in order for such an atmosphere to grow and thrive.

The term creative ecosystem has been in circulation since 2000 when it first appeared in BusinessWeek. Defining a form of infrastructure, the system includes a few core components: Not just the creative person, the creative project and the creative environment, but also the functional relationships that connect them.

In this specific day and age, to stay healthy, economies must be aware of how creativity, innovation and culture are important factors for the competitiveness of not only companies, but also for nations, cities and regions, particularly as we move from goods and service economies to “experience” economies.

Since the early 2000s, many nations, cities and regions have been paying close attention to the emergence of these concepts and their importance within the global culture. Without proper care and thoughtfulness toward maintaining a healthy creative ecosystem, many destinations, currently thought of as centers of innovation and art, will die out, and force residents and visitors to look elsewhere for jobs, homes, culture, and experiences.

the creative cart

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Creativity comes in many forms: Laura Marquez

As Henry Miller said, the destination is predominantly a new way of seeing things, and that is even more true in today’s society. Note: The creative class includes the upcoming generations that will carry our culture into the future, and this particular group of people is concerned with experience, adventure, and authenticity.

Decades ago, interestingly, Jane Jacobs had already been a leader in developing the human capital theory, which posits that creative people are the driving force in regional economic growth. 

the creative matthew payne

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Matthew Payne: Laguna already attracts artistic types

The human capital idea can be thought of as a stock or endowment; but it does evoke the question: Why do creative people cluster in certain places?

Richard Florida researched the topic and discovered that people were no longer making the career decisions or geographic moves that the previous standard theories stated, but instead, educated and creative individuals were drawn to places that were inclusive and diverse, where high-quality experiences awaited, where there was an openness to diversity of all kinds, and the opportunity to validate their identities as creative individuals.

In other words, these creatives were not necessarily attracted for traditional economic reasons such as natural resources or efficient transportation. Quite simply, creativity, rather than specifics of location and other factors, attracts creative people to certain regions. 

the creative bill steel

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Photo by Bill Steel

“Word on the Street” public art sponsored by the City helps draw creative people to our community

So who comprises the “creative class”? These are people whose function is primarily to create meaningful new ideas and forms, including scientists, engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, architects, as well as innovative thinkers and communicators like journalists, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and influencers, according to Florida. 

Professionals who engage in problem solving, in health, science, tech, legal and financial industries support this echelon of society, which cuts across classes. 

“Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms of creativity – artistic and cultural, technological and economic – can take root and flourish.”

Laguna Beach is one of those places that people are inclined to flock toward, but the town is on the cusp of losing this “creative place” attraction. It is vital that as a community, Laguna maintains and helps to make sure that it continues to offer ample diversity of experiences, people, economics, technology and places. 

To put it in plainly: diversity spurs economic development and homogeneity slows it down. This means that in a community, it is important to attract and keep diversity of industry, diversity of culture and diversity of people as the key foundation for success and growth.

Laguna Beach has had an extensive history in supporting and perpetuating diversity of people and experiences. Other cities in Orange County are catching up to the success of the creative center of Laguna Beach, long known for its history as an arts colony and an artistic epicenter in OC, by offering more affordable housing options, more diverse cultural offerings, encouraging bilingual and cultural businesses and centers, and creating unique and distinctive spaces and experiences that become signature offerings to those cities. 

the creative mural

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The Hive on Laguna Canyon Rd is buzzing with creativity and fun murals – this one by artist Brett Crawford

Laguna needs to step up – and that’s just what is happening. Just take a look at recent activity in the Canyon!

Stay tuned for our next column on July 20, as we dive into the unique and fascinating history of the Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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