Creative of the Month- October 2013
Steve Nivin, Ph.D., is the Chief Economist for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Director of the SABÉR Research Institute, and Director of the St. Mary’s Neighborhood Revitalization Project, and assistant professor of economics at St. Mary's University.
1) For how many years have you been researching the creative economy in San Antonio? What have you discovered over those years?
I have been researching the creative economy for over ten years. I have learned that it is an industry that consists of a very large number of individual artists and small firms, much more so than other industries. We also learned that it is a very resilient industry in that it held up fairly well during the recession and has continued to grow. In San Antonio, the creative industry has grown remarkably since we first started studying it in 2003. Lastly, it is an industry that is integrated with almost every other industry in the economy and is vital to our overall economic success.
2) How would you say San Antonio's creative economy has changed since you first starting reporting on it?
I think the biggest change we have seen in the creative industry in San Antonio is its remarkable growth since 2003, even through one of the deepest recessions in our nation's history. I believe we are also seeing a heightened awareness of the importance of this industry in our overall economic development, which is being reflected in many of the investments that will support the growth of the arts for many years to come.
3) What do you feel is missing from our creative economy to take it to the next level?
I think the biggest piece that has been missing from our creative economy is a world class performing arts center, but fortunately, that will be addressed with the opening of the Tobin Center. Our new performing arts center is going to be huge for the continued growth of the creative industry and the development of our economy. I would also add that the development of an economy or a sector of the economy always comes back to education, so it is vital that we continue to push to improve access to arts education at all levels of education. I believe that this is not only vital for the continued development of the creative economy, but it is very important for the continued development of our overall economy. If our economy is going to get to the next level of its development, we have to have a workforce that has the ability to think creatively.
4) How do you feel arts education can impact our creative economy and overall economy?
Of course, arts education is vital to training the artists of the future that will fuel the growth of the creative economy, but I would argue that it is also very important for the continued development of our overall economy. If our economy is going to get the next level of its development, we have to have a labor force that can think creatively. They can't just be good at memorizing information and passing tests. The life blood of the economy now and into the future will be a workforce who can think creatively enough to solve complex problems that they have never seen before and see the issues of their industry or their communities in a new way that will lead to innovations and solutions. Arts education goes way beyond just teaching people about the arts and how to be an artists; it teaches people how to "see". It teaches the creative vision that is so important to the future success of our economy. The new school at the Southwest School of Art will certainly provide a big boost in this area, but if we are going to have a successful economy in the future in terms of economic development, we have got to continue to push for more arts education in our schools at every level.
5) Tell us about the event the Hispanic Chamber is hosting on October 30.
On October 30, we are releasing the newest information on the economic impact of the creative industry in San Antonio. This is our continued effort to highlight the creative industry in San Antonio and its importance to our economy.
6) Aside for your economics background, what sort of creative interests do you occupy your time with?
As far as actively creating anything remotely related to art, my pursuits mainly focus on cooking, especially baking, photography, and writing. Mainly because of the influence of my wife, I have most recently become interested in the combination of two of these pursuits with the photography of food. Most of my creative pursuits, however, involve the consumption of much of the great art in San Antonio and exposing my kids to as much of it as possible.
7) I noticed you used to blog for mysa.com. In one of your blog entries you mentioned you and your wife were going to take dance lessons. How'd that go?
Wow! You found that blog!? Unfortunately, time got away from my wife and me and we were never able to pursue the dance lessons, which is probably a good thing for my wife's feet. It is still something we discuss every now and then, but we just have not done it, yet.
8) Finally, what would you say is the best indicator of a thriving creative community? And how do we keep things moving forward?
I am not sure there is a single best indicator of the health of the creative economy, but I guess if I had to pick one that was actually measurable it would be employment growth. However, if it all comes back to education, some measure of arts education outcomes would be good to track. In order for the creative economy to continue to thrive, we have to continue to invest in it. The Tobin Center will be a huge boost to the arts and the over economy in San Antonio in many ways. It is a big investment, but once it is built, this does not mean we are done investing. We need to continue to make investments in the arts in the future not just for the arts' sake but for the continued development of our overall economy. We have got to continue to push for more arts education at all levels and to build upon the existing infrastructure that supports the success of this industry at all levels.