Artsy Rust Belts: Narratives of the Creative Class in Post-Industrial Cities from a Transatlantic Perspective

Doctoral Researcher: Hanna Rodewald, M.Ed.

Advisors: Prof. Dr. Walter Grünzweig and Prof. Dr. Barbara Buchenau

U.S. Mentor: Prof. James Throgmorton, University of Iowa

Artsy Rust Belts Graphics

The creativity script of urban and economic revitalization stirred city planning and management into new directions through different creative and cultural approaches advertised by urban and economic thinkers such as Charles Laundry (The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators, 2000) or Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, 2012). At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the creative script thus, became highly influential for urban transformation strategies of post-industrial cities around the world. Until today, “creativity“ is presented as the silver bullet to fill the gap left behind by traditional industries. Simultaneously, profound criticism against Florida’s model arose, accusing him of the total commodification of culture and art.

This project traces how, for instance Florida’s proposed urban redevelopment plans draw on the American frontier narrative, labeling the deindustrialized urban landscape the new frontier which bears opportunities for creative re-discoveries of all sorts. His “Creative Class” resultantly become the new group of heroic pioneers who seize their full creative potential in order to lead struggling cities once more to economic prosperity. Although this figure of thought presently itself as a truly American narration, Artsy Rust Belts insists that it has been hugely successful as an urban redevelopment script outside of US contexts as well.

The Ruhr Area’s slogan as European Capital of Culture in 2010, “Change through Culture – Culture through Change”, is one version of this script. The Dortmund U was one of the flagship projects of RUHR.2010. In this context the fallow building complex of the former Union brewery was turned into a center for art and creativity, joining several institutions under one roof. Based on this new cultural institution, this project examines in how far the American narration of the creativity script works within the Ruhr Area or whether specifically regional interpretation exist, that might differ from Florida’s model. Thus, Artsy Rust Belts addresses the chances and challenges of the urban creative economy and cultural production in a transatlantic context.


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