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Title:Tianzifang: a case study of a creative district in Shanghai
Author(s):Chen, Yu-Tsu
Director of Research:Parsons, Michael J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Parsons, Michael J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bresler, Liora; Sinha, Amita; Hetrick, Laura
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Art education
Creative district
Richard Florida
Abstract:Influenced by the ideas of Richard Florida and other Western theorists, China has recently been enthusiastically establishing creative districts in response to its booming, creative economy. Tianzifang, a 70-year-old Shikumen neighborhood and factory area located in downtown Shanghai, is such a creative district. However, because the contemporary ideas of creative milieux, creative cities, and the creative class have been primarily derived from the West, how do they apply in an Asian Communist society? How do they differ from the West? Do Western theories hold true for Shanghai? Through participant observation and in-depth interviews with over 40 participants from the creative class, administrators, and local residents, I investigate Tianzifang by exploring its development through history, the sense of space/place, the attraction for the creative class, and the dominant creativity production systems. I argue that China has developed new adaptations based on its unique cultural and political environment that makes it differ from Western theories in three ways. First, creativity is usually viewed as a personal endeavor rather than a social interactive production. Creative people in Tianzifang remain in minimal contact with others, which makes its production systems independent and irrelevant. Second, job and business opportunities such as the Chen Yifei Effect are the major drivers for the creative class when making a location decision. This challenges Florida’s idea that creative people decide where they would like to live before considering jobs. Third, due to its limited freedom of expression and censorship, the creative class tends to avoid sensitive social issues and instead strives to pursue harmony and inner peace in their works. Lastly, I raise issues pertaining to Tianzifang that need serious attention in order to establish future creative districts: without a well-considered plan, the high-sounding talk of establishing creative districts can cause social downsides such as inequality to be ignored and disguised; and over-promoted tourism can cause commercialization and gentrification, changes that would threaten the artists and lead to the expulsion the creative talent.
Issue Date:2015-07-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Yu-Tsu Chen
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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