Dominican Republic and its strategy to foster creative cities

Within the orange economy, a new local strategy has emerged with the aim of capitalizing on economic growth. It is to promote “creative cities”. One cannot speak of “sustainable metropolises” without adding creativity-driven actions.

The journalist and urban planner adopted this term in the middle of the last century, which she defined as a cultural entity capable of creating wealth from the values of its citizens.

She proposed cities with diverse communities, eclectic space offerings, a bubbling scene and fertile ground for innovative ideas. From this was born the interest of architects and local governments to foster these orange economy cities.

Charles Landry is an international consultant recognized for popularizing the concept of the Creative City, the future of cities. In 2000, the author revealed that this type of city works with aspects such as local identity and urban marketing.

Landry considers the creative city as the repository of infrastructure for the creative industries (museums, libraries, business incubators, commercial pedestrian areas) and as the catalyst of a business atmosphere based on trust, exchange and mutual protection.

Knowing this universal reality, it was in March 2020 that the “Methodological Guide for the Formulation and Implementation of Creative Cities and Territories Plans for the Municipalities of the Creative Cities and Territories Network of the Dominican Republic” was presented in the country.

This guide, prepared by architects Marcos Barina, Melisa Vargas and Yina Jiménez, is based on requirements such as including cross-cutting mechanisms in the Creative Cities approach and the themes of innovation, orange economy, sustainable development, cultural heritage, education, diversity, inclusion, as well as municipal participation and development.

The report proposes the creation of a Municipal Network of Creative Cities and Territories with four strategic axes:

1. Territorial revitalization: consists of the management of the improvement of public space, environment and socio-cultural facilities to improve the quality of life of the municipalities.

2. Community innovation: consists of the implementation of social interaction mechanisms that promote social inclusion through citizen participation.

3. Training and educational continuity: Consists of the formulation of comprehensive training programs for productive creation in an environment that values social coexistence and physical habitat.

4. Creative economy: consists of the creation of capacities that guarantee the sustainability of human, cultural and economic resources.

An example of a “Creative City” is worth mentioning. Los Pepines, a sector located in the historic center of Santiago, is famous for the colorful and innovative murals that adorn its streets, including a lady with hair rolls and a lipstick that she holds in her hands.

Creative potential of cities

In 2019, the European Commission presented the second edition of its Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, a tool designed to compare and boost the creative and cultural potential of European cities, which is vital for driving economic growth and social cohesion.

The monitor found that cultural venues are generally within a 30-minute walk (or just a 5-minute bike ride) of where European citizens live and are highly accessible by public transport.

The European research highlighted three facets (cultural vitality, creative economy and enabling environment) and nine dimensions:

1. Cultural place and facilities.
2. Cultural participation and attractions.
3. Creativity and knowledge-based jobs.
4. Intellectual property and innovation.
5. New jobs in creative sectors.
6. Human capital and education.
7. Openness, tolerance and trust.
8. Local and international connections.
9. Quality of governance.

Local programs

Dominican research on creative cities cites some cities with great orange potential. Such is the case of the Santo Domingo cable car, where nationally and locally renowned artists from the surrounding communities created a public art route to encourage artistic talent and local development.

With this initiative, 50 murals were painted on facades and roofs along the 3 neighborhoods of the cable car axis by different Dominican visual artists, among many other artistic manifestations in the cable car territories.

He also mentions Dominicana Moda as an annual event that has been held in Santo Domingo since 2005 (without taking into account the coronavirus pandemic), since this activity consolidates the city-image, awakens the interest of tourists and attracts people interested in local fashion.

Challenges for the DR

The Dominican guide, which was supported by the General Directorate of Special Programs of the Presidency (Digepep), the National Competitiveness Council and the Dominican Municipal League, states that the creative cities model has proven to be a disadvantage for small cities and rural communities because it is based on aspects that seem to characterize large cities, such as density, high population, diversity, tolerance and their dependence on high communication connectivity and access to technological knowledge.

However, they add that the creative economy can be part of an economic adaptation strategy when traditional industries (forestry, agriculture, mining, fishing, etc.) seem to contract.

In this sense, the authors reveal that the creative city model can be adapted to the territorial scale by seeking ways to creatively reuse existing resources to take advantage of new markets and opportunities.

However, this implies going through processes of diversification and innovation that can transform traditional methods of sales and production towards marketing, branding and planned exchange between resources. In this diversification process, the creative capital of the communities involved (artists, influencers, musicians, graphic and product designers, etc.) must be taken into account.

“In this way, the creative industry generates income and employment that allows these creatives to stay, or eventually return to their communities. As we will see below, this process of engaging creatives is intimately linked to the formalization of their intellectual rights and creative access to financing methods,” the architects add.

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