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Claire Spencer at Arts Centre Melbourne
Photograph: Graham DenholmClaire Spencer

11 ways creativity can make Melbourne a better city

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

Now, more than ever, Melbourne is a city powered by creativity. Melburnians engage with arts and live music more often than those in other Australian cities; we're spoiled for choice by some of the world's most highly regarded arts festivals (including the recent Yirramboi First Nations Arts Festival); and, according to Time Out's Global City Index, we feel inspired by Melbourne on a daily basis.

Currently, the state government is on a mission to strengthen Victoria's status as a creative state. Last year, Creative Victoria launched a $115 million strategy to boost the state's output in everything from film and TV to design and art.

Part of this strategy was to launch the Creative State Summit – held this week in Melbourne (June 29-30). At this two-day conference, some of Australia's most influential minds in arts, culture, design and technology will gather to grapple with some big topics. How can art help to grow Victoria's economy, shape its cultural landscape and make us see the world differently? How can we harness rapidly changing technology to grow the state's creative industries? And how do we make this industry more accessible and inclusive to a wider range of people?

Ahead of this inaugural festival – which will involve panel talks, workshops and keynote speeches – we asked 11 of Melbourne's most powerful decision-makers in the arts the question: 

How should creativity be used to make Melbourne a better city?

1: "Creativity is the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected, and that will continue to be vital if Melbourne is to remain a diverse, prosperous, unique, liveable and marvellous city. Keeping the history alongside the present and the future… celebrating the complex curiosity of creativity alongside the rallying cry of more partisan activities. Creativity made this city what it is today, and creative thinking will be needed more than ever if we are to avoid the city clichés of the future." – Jonathan Holloway, artistic director of the Melbourne FestivalWelcoming address and closing remarks.

2. "Creativity is already making Melbourne a better city through experimentation, innovation and helping tie the community together. Given rising prices and pressures on creative space the question for me is how do we ensure that it continues to." – Marcus Westbury, CEO of Collingwood Arts Precinct and author of Creating CitiesPanel: Building the Creative State

3. "Creativity should be used to bring greater Melbourne together in more inclusive ways, and celebrate new forms of creativity from the outer suburbs across the city." – Seb Chan, chief experience officer at ACMI. Talk: Artificially Intelligent Cultural Organisations.

4. "Melbourne’s diverse culture assets – be they arts, sports, food, laneways – all contribute to the alchemy that is Melbourne. Collaboration – as was achieved at the recent Asia TOPA festival – is the key to making Melbourne a better city, allowing these individual strengths to meld, presenting a combined strategy that maximises the outcome for Melbourne and our community.” – Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre MelbournePanel: Experience Economy – Creating Extraordinary Moments and Stories that Get People Talking.

5. "Creativity can take apart our assumptions about how things should be done, and remake them to be more inclusive and accessible for everybody." – Will McRostie, founder and director of Description VictoriaPanel: Toward Integration – Interpretive Access Services.

6. "To help us ask each other and ourselves some of the troublesome, peculiar, perplexing questions that if you are alive in 2017 you’ll be asking yourself or someone else. And pose suggestions and possibilities in thoughtful, skilful aesthetic elaborations that go beyond the transactional." – Angharad Wynne-Jones, artistic director of Arts HousePanel: Creative Responses to Difficult Times. 

7. "How can Melbourne be a better city, or even just a sustainable city, without creativity?" – David Ryding, director of Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature office. Panel: The Book is Dead! Long Live the Book!

8. "Without creativity you end up with politicians as the only voice in the city. Beauty and ideas are the only antidote to the crippling effects of selfishness. No politicians were killed in the construction of this sentence but in the meantime several artists died of hunger." – Bruce Pascoe, author and editor (most recently of Dark Emu). Panel: The Pea Under the Mattress and the Pea on the Plate.

9. "Creativity should bring the people of Melbourne together to share our stories and celebrate our differences. It should shine a light in dark places and give volume to silent voices. Creativity should tilt the world on its axis, deliver a knock-out punch to apathy, and inspire us all to be better citizens." – Justine Hyde, director of library services and experience at the State Library of VictoriaPanel: The Book is Dead! Long Live the Book!

10. "If artists are given the freedom, control, responsibility and agency to make decisions with impact across every aspect of Melbourne’s cultural life, we will see our city transformed." – Simon Abrahams, creative director and CEO of Melbourne FringePanel: Future of Festivals. 

11. "Impactful creativity occurs when diverse thinkers come together at the intersection of pragmatism and idealism. Melbourne is perhaps better primed than almost any city to nurture and harness this intersection to create a more progressive, inclusive and sustainable community." – Kaj Lofgren, director of the School of Life AustraliaPanel: Social Enterprise – the Business of Doing Good.

For more information on the Creative State Summit, visit the website

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