Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dayton's (and Louisville's) Questionable Bohemian Index

The local Creative Region Initiative has two projects focusing on the arts, particularly a film festival and a gallery/performance space. One of the Creative Region Initiative participants mentioned that, according to numbers provided by the Florida consultancy, Dayton ranks “above average” on the bohemian index.

The Bohemian Index

As a way of explanation this index as defined in a 2002 paper on Ontario cities, Competing for Creatvity, co-authored by Florida:

Bohemian Index – The Bohemian Index is defined using employment in artistic and creative occupations. It is a location quotient that compares the region’s share of the nation’s bohemians to the region’s share of the nation’s population.

The paper also lists occupations used for the Bohemian Index:

Musicians and composers
Actors and directors
Craft-Artists, painters, sculptors and artist printmakers
Artists, performers, and related workers

I was thinking that Florida must be missing something. His book notes that Louisville ranked 30 out of 40 on this index for metros over 1,000, near the bottom. So if Dayton is “above average” it would presumably have a more visible and active scene than Louisville.

I don’t see that.

Then, looking again at Competing for Creativity, at the metro area list (which includes US cities). In this case Louisville and Dayton are compared together in the same size cohort, and actually are close using the Bohemian Index:

Dayton: 22,

Louisville: 20

This nearly equal ranking would also imply that the Dayton “bohemian” scene—artists, musicians, performers and related businesses and venues, would be equivalent to Louisville’s’ to some degree. Or Louisville would have as weak a scene as Dayton. This is not the case. Why?

(on edit Teresa Gaspar, active in the Creative Region Intiative, provided updated Bohemian Index numbers, based on 2006 data

Dayton: 1.o5

Louisville: -.87

..where 1.0 is the national average. In this case Dayton is above and Louisville below).

People and Money

I wondered if there is just not enough money in the local economy to support this. So I ran some numbers off the County Business Patterns database for both metro areas. CBP provides total number of workers, and total payroll (for the private sector), so it would be possible to see how much money was coming into the local economy, and a very rough measure of $$ per person. CBP would not pick up the military & civilian population associated with the Air Force, or their payroll.

Comparing the two metro areas, looking at number employed and annual payroll (both for the private sector only) for 2006, one can see that there are substantial deltas.

Assuming the core county would have the lion’s share of the patron and audience base for visual arts and performance, on can come up with notional income per person.

Interestingly, Dayton seems to do better in terms of annual income per employee (depending on how the aggregate payroll was actually distributed )

Swallows without a Spring

So what does this have to do with cultural creatives and Dayton’s relatively weak urban bohemia? It means that maybe the difference of $18.6 billion and 160,700 more people might be the difference between the land of the bland and some funky goings-on. The difference between more art galleries, music venues, an independent bookstore or two, indy restaurants, things like that.

The difference between, say, an Elbos or Night Owl or Rutledge Gallery or Santa Clara Arts District being economically viable or closing.

Perhaps the Louisville metro area has crossed some economic and population threshold to where it can support things Dayton can’t, even if the places appear equivalent on the Bohemian Index

So, for Dayton, a lot of swallows but no spring?


Jefferey said...

(Note: This comment was originally posted by the Urbanophile, but accidentaly deleted. I managed to find it and here it is reposted)

Lots of thoughts. It's tough to know where to start.

1. If the Bohemian Index only measures employees, then it could miss a significant segment of the creative community. However, the weak showing for Louisville is consistent with its poor showing in the NEA survey, college degree attainment, etc. The data based surveys seem at odds with the popular belief about the city. Is the data wrong, or is the popular perception off? I've long maintained that Louisville's arts community is not nearly so robust as locals would have you believe.

2. Louisville is the largest city by far in Kentucky. Dayton is way down the list in Ohio. Louisville is a natural agglomeration point for cultural activities in the state of Kentucky. Dayton does not play anything like that role in Ohio.

3. Dayton is very close to Cincinnati, which can suck away its more creative element easily. What's more, easy proximity to thriving suburban counties like Warren and Butler means an easy exodus for business and affluent people from Montgomery County, possibly draining life away from it in a way that doesn't affect Louisville, which has no critical mass affluent suburban counties to pose much of a similar threat at this point.

4. Louisville was historically a larger city relative to the nation than it is today. Wasn't it once like 9th largest in the country? When the river was king, Louisville was an important place. This provided a cultural and built environment endowment that a place like Dayton doesn't have. (Cincinnati sees this to an even greater degree).

5. Size does matter. I do think there is some minimum scale to operate as a "big city". Louisville seems to be nibbling at the edges. Dayton is clearly below it. Urban amenities do seem to be roughly proportional to population. That's one reason I advocate the "smaller but better" vision for Louisville, since it does not have the population heft to complete with Indianapolis or Columbus (both 40% bigger metros) or Cincinnati (almost 2x bigger).Just some ideas that occur to me.

Jefferey said...

I'll be posting a bit more on Louisville later, but I have to agree on the size, and money, issue in re Dayton.

Since Florida's index indicates there should be a somewhat higher concentation of cultural creatives in Dayton vs Louisville, I'd expect to see some evidence of that.

The only reason I can see why we dont see more is lack of venues. I know some of the visual arts people here dont show here, but have national business, showing out of town. So perhaps it is here, as Floridas index shows, but the patronage isn't ,which is what my numbers might indicate.

I also think values can't be discounted.

In this pragmatic "city of 1000 factories" (and even more engineers) things like art might not be valued (beyond the conventional S-O-B subscription).

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to clarify that the DaytonCREATE Creative Incubator team is not looking at starting gallery space. The focus is on researching and documenting what exists in the grassroots urban cultural scene & providing space for what is lacking. We don't think gallery space is lacking at this point. What seems to be lacking is community space to both create and perform...a multipurpose flexible place where cultural creatives can feel at home and connect with others in this hidden group.

Unknown said...

Jefferey - great post, and Urbanophile - fantastic comment. As somebody from a major city I have often thought that the biggest problem that Dayton has is its small metro population. The funky, unique, ethnic, fringe and niche places and things that can always find enough of an audience in a big city rarely thrive let alone survive in small cities - especially in this day and age where almost everything has basically been commoditized. And that is something I do think about often - while Dayton has as tremendous creative underground for its size, is there enough of a market here to bring it above the surface?

I too find this region to overwhelmingly embrace bland over different, and that is a fundamental culture challenge that is difficult if not impossible to overcome.

Great conversation - thanks again!

Jefferey said...

Sorry, Kate. I am still getting my head around the concept of the incubator as it's a new thing to me.


Billy, yeah, not sure how far this stuff will go. This is a big experiment to push the envelope here, which is pretty interesting to see.

One way to reveal the underground is with media. You can see that with the music scene and Myspace, and with a few of the other blogs.

Guys like Mel from the Bhudda Den, who also promote shows...guys like this--and their projects--- need to be featured and boosted. And stuff like the Dirt Collective and Echoes and the Dayton Music Fest.

Jefferey said...

"This provided a cultural and built environment endowment that a place like Dayton doesn't have."

Dayton lost its grand victorian things to urban renewal, but it has a good collection of 19th century vernacular architecture to the east of downtown. It probably has more pre 1870s working class housing than Louisville, in the Oregon and St Annes Hill, and a bit in the Xenia Avenue area. Dayton industrialized early so the architecture here reflects that.

Dayton's architectural patrimony is one thing I really need to blog more on.

Matthew Sauer said...

Are you maybe putting too much weight on the visible creative class - artists and galleries - and not enough on the people associated with DCDC, the Philharmonic, theater groups, etc.? I would think there are lots of "off-stage" contributors (and people that support the, uh, Establishment/corporate-donor arts institutions) that would contribute to a Bohemian index.

Jefferey said...

Matt, excellent. Great point.

Its really tough to actually measure this, this concept of "bohemia", "cultural creatives", or whatever. In a way one is trying to describe a mileau, and how it works. As much sociology and cultural studies as economics. There are many facets to this. Though i talk more to the visual arts, there is the music scene and the mainstream arts organizations like DCDC, Rythym in Shoes, the ballet, etc.

How does one count people doing creative things (the "day job" situation)? And it gets even tougher when you are talking about patronage and support, as with Culturworks and a donor base, as well as patronage.

I should also say Florida is not the only one doing work on this.

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