Creative Industries and the Urban Environment (2018-2019)


Over the past ten years, Durham has witnessed a boom in a number of key cultural initiatives including the Durham Performing Arts Center, Golden Belt, 21c Museum Hotel and RUNAWAY clothes. These cultural productions have not only been seen as enriching the city’s image, but have also attracted other creative ventures. Further, Duke University has contributed greatly to the cultural development of Durham through such sites as the Nasher Museum of Art and the new Rubenstein Arts Center.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project will examine the relationship between urban development and cultural production in Durham. Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class (2012) ranked Durham number one in highest concentration of creative class workers (researchers, musicians, artists and others). The project team will assess Florida’s methodology, especially where it is applied to Durham, and consider whether creativity in the city fosters economic prosperity.

In order to establish whether there is an observable relationship between creative industries and economic growth in Durham, and to foster an interdisciplinary network of students and scholars interested in the study of cultural industries and art markets, this team will:

  • Develop new metrics to gauge the correlation and causation between creative production and economic growth in Durham
  • Assess the methodological usefulness of Richard Florida’s creative class theory against the opposing urban economic theories of Edward Glaeser (Harvard, Economics Department) on the Durham micro level
  • Create new measurements to define more precisely the Talent, Tolerance and Technology indices
  • Create new scientific knowledge on the dynamic relationships between creative industries and economic growth that can be useful both in academic research and urban cultural policy.

The team will also collaborate with Durham City Hall, local cultural industries, artists and designers on a series of rotating exhibitions.

Anticipated Outcomes

Original data collection and analysis; reports on relationship between creative industries and economics in Durham; spring symposium with invited speakers; interdisciplinary network of students and scholars interested in study of cultural industries and art markets

Student Opportunities

This team is accepting applications from all students. Preference will be given to student with skills in statistics.

Student will gain practical skills in all aspects of data research, including gathering, cleaning, organizing, visualizing and analyzing data, specifically using STATA, ArcGIS, Openrefine and Tableau. Students should also expect to gain experience conducting original research with the intent to publish findings. Opportunities for organizing symposia and curating exhibitions will also be available.

Weekly meetings and collaborative working sessions will foster an environment where students can share progress, findings, roadblocks and suggestions. This approach, which emphasizes peer exchange and critique, will create a real-life work environment to produce original and ultimately publishable research. Further, this team will have a dedicated project room across from the Duke Art, Law & Markets Initiative (DALMI) Office where team members may gather to work collectively outside of scheduled meeting times.

Students will be guided by members of DALMI as well as external scholars who specialize in the contextualization of creative industries and art markets.

Students will be evaluated on their presence and participation at all meetings and workshops, as well as weekly progress reports, drafts and the final version of the research paper.


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019  

  • Fall 2018: Workshops on data gathering, analysis and visualization; begin gathering, cleaning and visualizing data; begin weekly discussions on contextual and theoretical sources relevant to relationship between cultural industries, art markets and economics; organize spring symposium
  • Spring 2019: Continued research; plan and execute Creative Industries and the Urban Environment Symposium


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters

Get Involved

Apply here

See earlier related team, Creative Industries and the Urban Environment (2017-2018).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Kaylee Alexander, Trinity - Art, Art History and Visual Studies-PHD*
Felipe Alvarez de Toledo, Trinity - Art, Art History and Visual Studies-PHD
Patrick Herron, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
Fiene Leunissen, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies*
Eric Monson, Duke Libraries*
Lee Sorensen, Duke Libraries
Hans van Miegroet, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies*

Graduate Team Members

Bozhena Etin, Liberal Studies-AM

Undergraduate Team Members

Nalini Gupta, Economics (BS), Computer Science (BS2)
Erin McDermott, Economics (BS), Political Science (AB2)
Holly Ren
Alicia Sun, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Hannah Wolfe, Art History/Visual Arts (AB)

* denotes team leader