Creating global city brands through arts and culture


Inspired by visiting global cities expert Greg Clark, Arts NSW Policy Manager Susan Carroll writes about the role of arts and culture in creating global city brands and attracting the world’s best professional talent.


Sydney’s profile as a global city is well established. But for what gain precisely? Where do the opportunities lie and what role does arts and culture play in shaping our international profile?

Summed neatly under the umbrella of ‘city branding’, these were the issues unpacked recently by visiting global cities expert and OECD advisor, Greg Clark. A guest of the Committee for Sydney, Clark shared insights and perspectives gained from his experience working in 50 cities.

According to Clark, Sydney is best known as a tourist destination. High on liveability indexes for its beaches, less so as a place to invest – financially or personally. Our city’s tourism brand is successful, while it’s business brand is less so.

This acknowledgment, Clark suggests, presents a challenge for Sydney as it competes for increasingly mobile investment and workers: “How do you turn a one-night stand into a long-term relationship?” For the latter, Clark recommends we collaborate to integrate our brand platforms. Put simply, this means working across sectors to speak to visitors, innovators, entrepreneurs, film and TV producers, students and potential high-skill residents with one stellar offering.

This united message, in today’s digitally connected world, is what Clark counsels to position for competitive attraction. By combining our liveable status with an approach that showcases our dynamic business sectors and our wares as a key driver of the nation’s knowledge and professional services economy, we’ll be better able to attract long-term investment.

And on the contribution of arts and culture? Clark views the relationship with city branding as absolutely central. “If you want decision-makers, you must create a cultural milieu. If you want innovators, you must be funky – pop art of the street mixed with the high art of the Opera House. You won’t get decision-makers and innovators here unless you have culture on offer.”

“You won’t get decision-makers and innovators here unless you have culture on offer.” – global cities expert Greg Clark

So, it’s a good thing we have a 10 year strategy for a thriving arts and cultural sector. In February, the NSW Premier and Deputy Premier launched Create in NSW, our first 10 year framework to support our ambitions for excellence, grow access and foster the development of a sustainable sector. As a whole-of-government policy, this sets an agenda which will see us collaborate right across the NSW Government to make arts and culture a priority across portfolios. This vision is being implemented with arts and culture integrated into our State’s long-term infrastructure strategy and the thinking on our State’s plan for growing Sydney.

These partnerships across government will see arts and culture intrinsic to the liveable evolution of our city, not a final aesthetic touch. Our work complements that of local governments such as that of City of Sydney, which has actively positioned Sydney as a leading creative city.

We’re also prioritising the growth of international markets to create new opportunities for our arts and cultural sector to export and connect internationally and contribute creatively to our global brand.

Artists, cultural workers and the rich tapestry of organisations and institutions in NSW are central to our vision – without them we have no art and culture.

More on Clark’s visit can be found on the Committee for Sydney’s website.

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Published: 6 May 2015