Friday, 12 December 2014

New York: Creative City

I have now completed the 2014 New York Study Tour. This tour of New York city was based on the notion of immersive learning, undertaken through participant observation (mostly covert), where students according to Castree, Kitchin and Rogers (2013) observe the happenings of the city while immersing themselves into the city and its culture, in this case particularly in relation to creative practice.  This was done in order to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of creativity in New York. I have not participated in immersive learning actively before despite this experience being highly beneficial to me as a student and overall as a person, as this form/method of learning is not usually offered within universities in favour of traditional textbook and mock-reality learning. According to Williams (quoted in Jones, Niehaus, Rowan-Kenyon, Skendall & Ireland, 2012) immersive study experiences have positive impacts on students who undertake them, including cultural adaptability. The immersive nature of study tours takes students out of their comfort zones, which acts as a catalyst to gaining new or deeper understanding of themselves in addition to the intended understanding of the phenomena that is the focus of the tour (Jones et al. 2012). However, immersion levels differ from student to student, some students choose to become immersed in a place and its culture while others stick to their comfort zones which results in being a cookie cutter tourist (Edge, 2012) I aimed to become immersed in each place I went to gain the most from the experience. 

My creative experiences and travels were not limited to New York, but also included Dallas, Memphis and Nashville as alternative creative cities. My travels prior to New York helped to prepare me for the sheer scale of New York, as these cities were much bigger and played host to larger creative industries than Brisbane which provided a nice intermediary step for me. This played a large role in preparing me for New York, I was expecting to be greatly overwhelmed and I was surprised when I experienced minimal feelings of being overwhelmed. My previous blog posts cover specific things I did, places I went and experiences I was a part of in New York and how they affected me as a creative, particularly in my disciplines of fashion and public relations.

Participating in the New York Study tour has affected me as a person and as a creative practitioner and taught me many things about creativity, which has affected my approach to my creative field of fashion as well as my secondary discipline of public relations. I saw firsthand how collaborations between and melding disciplines can have fantastic results as was evident in the Zero Exhibition at the Guggenheim as well as in FIT’s Fashion and Dance exhibition; due to that my previous way of viewing fashion public relations in a bubble is no longer viable so I have been forced to see all creative industries as fluid and interdisciplinary. Further, I saw that creativity can be a big factor in everyday objects, concepts and even words/communications which was shown particularly in the Phillip Johnson Glass House and the poetry slam I attended. This notion will profoundly affect my future practice as I now understand that creativity can go beyond traditional creative mediums and occur anywhere and everywhere which I will aim to take advantage of in my work particularly as public relations involves a significant level of communication in both written, spoken as well as various visual formats.

My secondary discipline of public relations allowed me to notice and understand that New York City has branded itself as a creative city, which is a relatively new concept within the wider realm of public relations and branding. Cities can be branded using key elements and features of the city, such as art, history or culture which creates a distinctive brand image of the city (Kemp, Childers and Williams, 2012). New York city has been branded as a creative city, particularly due to its culture and creative scene and due to this more creative practitioners from across the globe are attracted to New York which creates a never ending cycle of reaffirming/growing its creative city status, however, the creativity isn't always for creativities sake but can also be for commercial purposes. Furthermore, a city with a strong brand will reap the rewards of its brand as it allows the city to compete with other cities, states and countries (Melike, Oznur, Burcu and Kemal, 2010) which is evident with New York and its branding and status of being a creative city. However, this brand comes at a cost, as New Yorks creativity is affected by the process of gentrification that sees the working class such as artists and creatives displaced as the wealthy move in, raising the cost of living to the point where the working class moves elsewhere (Glass quoted in Lees, Slater and Wyly, 2013).

My experience of New York as a creative city fell somewhere in between a totally immersive experience and tourist experience as I actively tried to participate in the New York way of life while still undertaking the academic tour elements which involved visiting creative and often tourist destinations particularly world renowned art museums as well as parks featuring iconic landscape architecture.  According to Edge (2012) short term study tours are closer to tourism than deep immersion but these tours still have merits and impacts on students particularly those with an academic focus on location specific phenomena. The impact this tour had on me, was learning more about creativity and creative people as a whole, also learning that many creative disciplines often work together with awe inspiring success such as the Phillip Johnson Glass House or Dance and Fashion. Immersive experiences, when undertaken wholeheartedly have the ability to change how an individual sees and interprets the world, which can also create challenges for the individuals as they are re-evaluating ideas and concepts which may be overcome through reflection particularly within a group (Jones et al. 2012). I found this to be true as I enthusiastically threw myself into the study tour and through that gained a greater understanding of creativity but also of the USA and most importantly, myself which was aided by the critical reflections required of the tour.

Reference List

Castree, Noel, Rob Kitchin and Alisdair Rogers. 2013. A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 362

Edge, Chelsea. 2012. “Short-term study abroad: Representations and transformations.” Masters Thesis., University of Wyoming. 

Jones, Susan .R., Elizabeth Niehaus, Heather T. Rowan-Kenyon, Kristan C. Skendall and Mei-Yen Ireland. 2012. "The Meaning Students Make as Participants in Short-Term Immersion Programs." Journal of College Student Development 53 (2): 201-220. Accessed December 10, 2014.
Kemp, Elyria., Carla Y. Childers and Kim H Williams. 2012. "Place branding: creating self-brand connections and brand advocacy." The Journal of Product and Brand Management 21 (7): 508-515. Accessed December 10, 2014.

Lees, Loretta, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyly. 2013. Gentrification. London: Taylor and Francis Accessed December 10, 2014.

Melike, Demirbag K., Oznur Yurt, Burcu Guneri, Kemal Kurtulus. 2010. "Branding places: applying brand personality concept to cities." European Journal of Marketing 44 (9): 1286-1304. Accessed December 10, 2014.

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