Artistic Bureaucrats

Politicians Get Creative

Nick is an Associate Professor at A&D and a public performer whose work is rooted in the social lives of public places.

Michigan Senator Hansen Clarke was on the radio yesterday, talking about his childhood on Detroit's Lower East Side first, and then about his education as a painter at Cornell University. Clarke offered an interesting take on his governing style as influenced by his fine arts background. Using both concrete examples and useful prompts a good drawing teacher would suggest, Clarke talked about seeing a big picture to understand how it is organized as a whole--conceptually and as a composition, an interest in thinking abstractly, and a willingness to engage in giving form to new ideas.

As we think about artists and creative visions for Detroit, I thought Clarke's words were well placed and reflected on two artistically inclined politicians who have used their creative backgrounds to shape their policy and their cities.

One is former 2-term mayor of Bogota, Colombia, the philosopher and recent Green Party Presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus used inventive strategies taken from agit-prop performance to govern Bogota--including employing mimes for traffic calming, and a women-only night out in public plazas where men were asked to stay home, along with the appearance of a recurring Super Citizen Mockus. (Mockus was a Stamps lecturer in 2008. You can see his talk here.)

Of another stripe is former painter and since 2000, Mayor of Tirana, Albania, Edi Rama who, among other accomplishments, supported the transformation of Soviet-era apartment blocks into vibrant facades. Perhaps Detroit's Mayor Dave Bing would think of incorporating creative strategies into his Detroit Works project inspired by fellow mayors.

Nick Tobier blogs about art & detroit. Follow his blog here.


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