Kid: “Mom, I want to grow up to be an artist.” Mom: “Oh honey, that’s nice, but go get a real job.”

Kid: “Mom, I want to grow up to be an artist.”
Mom: “Oh honey, that’s nice, but go get a real job.”

What will I create today?  That’s probably not the first question you asked as you hit your snooze button on your alarm app this morning, but why isn’t it? Isn’t there something that is invented during the course of your day that didn’t exist before? The pour over cup of coffee of sustainably grown beans, the chairs you sit in, media you watch, and every app you use. I do believe that each of us is born with innate creative abilities, but as each day goes by, we’re conditioned to be pragmatic, correct, to follow the rules, and yes, to be less creative.

According to the Labor Department, 65% of current students will spend their careers in jobs that have yet to be invented, which begs the question of, “Are Our Youth Ready for the Creative Economy?”

Creative Economy. Isn’t that an oxymoron? The words “creative” + “MONEY$$” never appear together, but they should. From the Renaissance to the redevelopment or gentrification of every poor neighborhood in the U.S. and the world, it is the “low-paying” artists, crafts people and creatives that are consistent catalysts for economic revitalization. So why not give credit (and money) where credit (and money) are due?

From the industrial age to the digital age to now, the creative age, economics have been redefined, as avenues of access have narrowed and definitions of the “Have’s and Have Not’s” have expanded. We at BAYCAT see an opportunity to bridge the digital tech divide and bring diverse creative talent into the workforce. Not only do we educate, empower and employ youth from low-income and low opportunity communities for careers in the creative industries, but our business model is asking, “How do we prepare our youth and communities to be creative in ANY industry?”

We engage in the creative process with our youth every day, to build and flex their creative muscles, to train them, not only be better media makers, but what about as investors, pilots, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs? In addition to our graduates who are working in what is easily thought of as “creative” fields like Lucasfilm, HBO, and Netflix, we’re creating a pathway for youth as young as 11 to start expanding their creative selves. Our recent placements use media as the entry point, but they are with agencies that represent instrumental fields in the creative economy: software and tech (Autodesk), publishing (WIRED), and even sports (SF Giants Production and the Golden State Warriors).

Together with education colleagues Erica Muhl from USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Urban Teacher, Mark Martin, and professionals from AdobeAutodesk, Prezi, we’re rolling up our sleeves and creating a design challenge to tackle this topic at SXSWedu.

What will you create today in the work that you do? How does that add to the creative economy? How can we adapt our educational systems and workforce training to better prepare our youth and communities while bringing more social equity to our world? Join us in Austin, or online at Adobe’s Education Exchange.

ps Photo was part of a BAYCAT youth-produced video called, “Hard Times.” Worth Watching.