Horn Toot! Study Reveals that Creativity & Culture Drive Economy

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chase jarvis seattle 100 congressman jay inslee

Yours truly pimping with Congressman Jay Inslee @ Seattle 100 launch - photo by pal Michal Garcia

The goals of creative expression are to make statements, to generate awareness, initiate reflection, feeling or action. We want the art to do work.

Such was the case with my Seattle 100 book & gallery exhibition. But, in truth, I had little understanding when I published the project how much or what kind of ‘work’ it would do. As it happened, the city appropriated the project as it’s own and generated a great bit of awareness on TV, radio – local, national, and all the proceeds went to charity. I thought the project was a success with simply that as the measure.

But today we’re celebrating a new milestone – something beyond my wildest dreams for the project… TheSeattle Mayor’s Office of Film & Music released a study that it has been quietly conducting for more than a year about the economic and cultural impact of the subjects of the Seattle 100 and their leadership by measuring the impact that art, creativity, and culture have on the economy of our city.

The results are very cool IMHO, having revealed that the personalities and their cultural categories we featured contributed more than $13 billion to the local economy as well as more than 170,000 jobs. While big numbers are impressive, what matters most to me is that it appears that results study of my creative project will directly inform, shape, and impact Seattle’s public policy. For, ultimately, the study reflects that creativity and culture drive business rather than the other way around – something that the Mayor has made clear that he will embrace in future decisions.

And while it’s not always–or even often–that art has such an obvious connection to social change, let the times like this remind us that creative toil is not lost.

From the foreword of the study…

The cultural identity of Seattle has long been appreciated for making Seattle a great place to live. But, as our economy has evolved over the years from traditional natural resource-based industries, our city’s cultural assets have proven to be an important factor in our current economic strength. This cultural identity now makes Seattle a great place to work.

As the Seattle 100 beautifully profiled leaders who are powering our city’s creativity today, I wondered about their measurable impacts to our region. Working to answer this question, I learned these individuals represent a substantial portion of our economy and form our vibrant identity to the world.

The Seattle 100’s impact demonstrates that innovation and creativity are Seattle’s new natural resources, fueling job creation and worldwide recognition. The results of this study position these cultural leaders in a new place, as an economic engine that drives our economy.
With this recognition comes an obligation to nurture our culture in order to continue enjoying economic prosperity. The result should be a commitment to understand and foster the value that the Seattle 100 and other cultural leaders bring to our city.

It is my hope that this uniquely presented information will be as useful to you as it has been to me in providing a heightened appreciation of culture as a true economic driver of the region.

James Keblas, Director
Seattle Mayor’s Office of Film & Music

In the even that you’re interested in reading the 52 page study, you can check it out here at the Seattle.gov.

The 11×11 inch, limited edition Seattle 100: Portrait of a Citybook is available here via Amazon while supply lasts.

Click thru the gallery images atop this page to check out the full story including some behind the scenes, or go here to the Seattle 100 microsite, or check out the S100 portrait gallery here on my main site.

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Kevin E says:

Impressive indeed. We were always on-board with your thesis here (and honored to be included in the 100), but that’s some serious cash. How to leverage that creative power even more is now on my mind….

stanchung says:

No surprise- making great things makes people buy.

Congrats Chase! That is HUGE! What an incredible contribution and effect your work had on Seattle!

Great post! The study’s conclusions sound logical – they corroborate the ideas Richard Florida expressed in The Rise of The Creative Class and, anecdotally, here at Lensbaby I’ve seen creativity and cultural innovation serve as a solid business foundation.

Thanks – both to team Jarvis and the city of Seattle – for reminding us of creativity’s value.

Frank Meo says:

Nice job! It proves the point that we all can make a difference, big and small.

Thanks for sharing this.


This is very interesting indeed and quite an eye-opener.

What I think is special about what you and your team do Chase is combine creativity and education – two things I feel can help rescue countries from recession and boost economies.

Congratulations to all involved.

The arts balance our society. So often people are put off pursuing creative careers for fear of not being able to “pay the mortgage”. Numbers are important. They give people confidence that their dream can work. Great article – thank you.

eddiebaba says:

This is a fantastic by-product, Chase! When is your TEAM (“Together Everyone Achieves More” – MJS) going to begin working on the “World 100,000: Prortrait of the Earth” project?

Jason Lee says:

Hello Chase + Crew,

Great to hear of this study. I’ll be adding it to my resources. Did you know Paris City Council, France revealed similar findings a few years back and imposed a ‘no franchise’ rule on the Left Bank, to keep the cultural diversity that had made it’s name?

Congratulations on the launch and thank for your live series.

Regards from Ireland

That is so cool Chase! You and your crew are really inspirational and I believe this kind of publicity will make similar projects see the light in many places throughout the world. Great job!

Brandon Teel says:

Wow, that’s awesome! Who knew the creative world gave so much to the economy?

Keep up the good work!

Mike says:

Congratulations Chase! This is big news! I can’t believe that a photographer (even one as influential as you) could effect change like this.

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