Across the globe, we're seeing that creative cities are attracting youth and those youth are the future economy. What’s interesting in all this, is our idea of a creative city and actually, the role youth play in any city. Take for example Detroit, recently declared bankrupt but quickly becoming one of the most creative and exciting cities in America, and the world for that matter! What’s happening there? Trending City spoke with Bethany Betzler (also on twitter), a catalyst for entrepreneurship and creative industries, doing some amazing work in the Motor City.
What's your background?
I grew up in suburban Detroit in a small community surrounded by lakes, trees and farms, so outdoor time is really important to me. My interests and creative drive has always been rooted in art and creativity. When I was younger I spent all my time drawing and writing fictional stories. As I grew I became really excited by dance and threw myself into that from my teenage years into college and beyond. I studied dance and choreography and eventually began producing performance events, which led me to learn fundraising, marketing, project management, etc. More and more I found myself driven by the process of making something happen, and kind of fell in love with that process more than the choreographing and dancing itself. By 2008, we could all begin to feel the world change, and I became eager to get involved in something that I could participate in on a greater, global scale. I went to grad school to study entrepreneurship and the creative industries and centered my work around how the creative industries impact a city. Now I am fascinated by what is happening in the world economically and I am exploring how we can create new models of self-reliance and financial autonomy by leveraging technology and empowering communities.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Since I am focusing on how we can help create self-reliance for independent communities, my current projects reflect that. Of course, this is all through a creativity/art/design lens for me. I am working on a project called Artifact Makers Society here in Detroit which celebrates the best of what is being made locally, with an emphasis on pieces that are design-forward and well-crafted. We are emphasizing the intersection of craftsmanship and contemporary design, as opposed to traditional designs that reflect nostalgia and the vintage trend. I am also working on a project in Peru where we are helping a humanitarian organization develop new revenue models that will allow them to focus on their mission and not have to rely on as much unpredictable charitable funding. We are making a video and photo documentary to raise awareness about the organization's existence and raise enough charitable funds to "stop the bleeding" so to speak so that we can then begin investing in the new revenue models.
Can you let us know more about DC3?
Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) was founded in 2010 with the mission of helping to establish Detroit as a global center for creativity and design innovation. We produce the annual Detroit Design Festival, and run a business accelerator for creative sector businesses called Creative Ventures. In general, we serve as a home base for the creative community in Detroit. Our work spans a pretty wide spectrum: everything from hosting economic development discussions with visiting delegations from Algeria, to running our in-house gallery for emerging artists, to planning a monthly happy hour for Detroit's design professionals.
What role does creativity play in our cities?
If you were to ask me more specifically about the role of the creative industries in our cities, I would say that they are an important economic and cultural asset. The creative industries influence the culture of a city more than any other industry. Creative industry businesses are more likely to locate in a city purely for the experience of being in a city. The creative industries are intimately linked to urban environments and are our city's number one source of exports from the knowledge economy. The world is more likely to know your city by its art, design and entertainment exports than by any other type of intellectual property stemming from it.
What inspires you?
Our planet and its people, their uprisings, and the feeling that comes from stumbling into a place where change is stirring.
Where do you think you'll be in 10 years?
I hope that in 10 years I will be living in Northern Michigan on a little piece of land that I and my family care for in between trips to international places where I will get to continue exploring how we create new models for independence. And I will always be advocating on the behalf of good art and design. Hopefully I will be making some of it again myself as well.