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Audio version

IT’S A CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC phenomenon hidden in plain view.

It’s hard to see because it’s everywhere: the clothes on your back, the app on your phone, the movie on your flat screen, the animated critter your kid loves: These products of creativity generate money—as it turns out, quite a bit.

According to the Ontario government, the creative industries in Ontario contribute $12.2 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the province’s economy annually. That’s more than the energy industry, 70 per cent of what auto manufacturing generates, and it surpasses the GDPs of Ontario’s agriculture, forestry and mining sectors combined.

What is the creative economy? The term came into prominence in the late 1990s. A 2010 European Commission report about the entrepreneurial dimensions of cultural and creative industries cites an early definition of “creative industries” as those requiring “creativity and talent with potential for wealth and job creation through exploitation of intellectual property.”

We see intellectual property being sold across countless culture-based industries like advertising; architecture; design; fashion; media; software; publishing and the performing and visual arts.

The supplementary economic impact on those whose livelihoods depend on the creativity of others can also be considered. Countless service-related professions in hospitality, printing, IT and tourism rely on television and film productions, art galleries, theatres and concerts to stay afloat.

A 2012 report from the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute makes the point that the creative economy goes beyond culture-based products and should include contributions of all creative workers in sectors like finance, health or mining, who are “paid to think” and find innovative solutions to daily business challenges.

While the economic contributions of these creative professionals are harder to pinpoint, the skills they possess are in growing demand as any recent grad can tell you.

Bottom line is that creativity sells. And Canada’s future economic prosperity is dependent on it.

An academic ecosystem for creativity

At Seneca, creativity underscores the academic approach collegewide, but is certainly the foundational element of programs within the Faculty of Communication, Art and Design (FCAD). Housed primarily at Seneca@York, FCAD offers program options in animation; art; event management; game art and animation; graphic design; visual effects; fashion arts; broadcasting; illustration; media design; independent songwriting and photography; acting; cosmetics; corporate communications and journalism.

The responsibility of creating an environment that prepares graduates to be creative for a living is that of FCAD’s Dean Michael Maynard, whose goal is to have all his students value creativity and approach projects from a design perspective.

“When you look at multibillion dollar, multinational corporations, that have built their profits and their success through design,” says Michael. “Every one of their products has a label on it indicating who the designer is. If our students think about their projects from a global perspective, it makes so much more sense and puts the creative economy on a grander scale.”

The diversity of programs that make up FCAD speaks to the many career opportunities Seneca graduates can consider upon graduation—all of which are contributing in some way to the flourishing creative economy, internationally and locally.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this economy, consider that in 2013, $1.2 billion was spent on film and television productions in Toronto, including $948 million on major productions and $131 million on commercials. Television series production also grew by 17 per cent on average from 2008-2013.

“We have known for a long time that Toronto is one of the four centres for design and creativity in North America, along with New York, San Francisco and Chicago. We are way up there,” says Michael. “We have a huge creative economy. It’s only going to get bigger.”

Seneca grads are certainly doing their part to contribute.

The rush of the daily creative hustle in the 6ix

Depending on the day, you might find Fashion grad Doreen To dressing actors on a movie set, designing a wedding dress for a client, advising students on sewing techniques or promoting her fashion line via social media.

She might be in sweats, or a one-of-a-kind creation of her own design. Wherever she is, in one way or another, she’s doing something creative that is helping to pay the bills and further her career.

Her day job is Costume Supervisor for Sinking Ships Productions, and Doreen has also worked on Canadian Film Centre documentaries and episodes of The Amazing Race Canada.

During a crisis situation, on set one day, when an actor’s costume ripped, panic set in until Doreen mentioned that she knew how to sew (a skill developed during long hours in the Seneca sewing lab). As she saved the day with needle and thread, a coworker quipped, “Wow. You’re like gold around here.”

18 RED 2016