This weekend I sifted through about forty academic articles on the Cultural Economy, Cultural Industries, Cultural Enterprises, Cultural Entrepreneurs. My brain is still swimming with terms like cultural geography, the intersection of culture and economics, and regional economic development. The consensus is evident: creative and cultural economies are the future of innovative regional economic and community development and offer promising paths toward prosperity and cultural diversity. A bright spot on our otherwise cloudy economic horizon, you might say.
But a theme began to emerge, well, really more of a glaring “gap in the scholarship” that tickled my brain until I had to scratch it. And here’s what I realized: the Cultural Entrepreneur was written out of the script in all of this research, thinking, writing, and theorizing. The individuals who start these cultural ventures, and in aggregate, meet the ever-growing market demand for cultural products; the people who are at the heart of cultural economies were not mentioned in the cast of characters in these varied and voluminous articles.
Yet, in my experience, at the heart of every cultural venture – be it a new ethnic restaurant or a burgeoning niche film studio—there is always a Cultural Entrepreneur center stage. Cultural industries and economies are not abstract notions or distant academic terms: they are vibrant, dynamic sites of cultural exchange between individuals. So, over the next several weeks I will introduce you to some of these extraordinary individuals. Moreover, I hope to recast Cultural Entrepreneurs and place them at the center of the cultural economy discussion–right in the spotlight, where they belong.