artistic bureaucrats

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. Michigan State Senator 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 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 the city, 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.

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.

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