The benefits of local talent to Bizkaia’s creative economy


One could be forgiven for equating the creative economy in Bizkaia with the iconic Frank Gehry Guggenheim museum, fabulous outside, famous internationally and generously accomodating great works of art of epic and primal scale, from the permanent steel  Matter of Time by Richard Serra  to the temporary and equally powerfully seductive and provocative Anish Kapoor.

The economic impact is over €200m each year with a further €25m to the Basque Treasury, the total impact since the Museum opened in 1997 is phenomenal, justifying the high level of risk and invesment made by the Basque administration.  As a tax raising government, with a nationalist administration at that time, the major investment of 100% funding and exclusive deal with the Guggenheim was part of a plan to regenerate the declining Bizkaia region at that time.  

It has firmly established Bilbao on the international cultural map and spearheaded growth in the creative economy. Gehry’s museum glitters and generates gold for state coffers.

But man cannot live on gold alone. The long term success of a nation or region’s creative economy is more complex and tied up with cultural identity and Bizkaia needs to complement its global offer with the local.  75% of businesses in the creative economy are small or micro businesses, bringing diversity and texture to a region’s creative offer and they need nuanced support to blossom.   

Bizkaia Creaktiva’s forum last week explored the possibilities for this, opening up ideas for supporting entrepreneurs in a country where a legacy of the Franco dictatorship is a guardedness from small municipalites and creative organisations –  a residual fear of sticking your neck out. 

Representatives of the spectrum of creative industries shared their perspectives of the global challenges of the web 2.0 world, much the same as in any other European city but truthfully, a bit more gloomy.  But two bright sparks glimmered.  One was the representative of the traditional craft makers connected through Arbaso where they have kept their heads down, ‘thinking with their hands’ creating Basque crafts throughout the changing times and which now could be opened up to the wider world..  The other, the sparky animator Alvaro Barrios who saw the opportunity for the local talent to band together to create a more diverse and textured Bizkaia creative economy.

Bravo Bizkaia Creaktiva!

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