Creative Cities

For the 2019-2020 academic year, the Stanford Arts Institute will continue work on a new project called Creative Cities. Seeking to advance and understand the historical and future roles of art in cities, our project fosters research, conversation, and artistic projects in urban settings. Using the city as the stage for inquiry, the project will post questions about the role of art in reimagining the urban sphere, creative economies, urban studies, the built environment, and more.

Building on a successful three-year postdoc fellowship program from 2016-2019, the Creative Cities Working Group examines the complex life of art in cities. The Working Group engages a broad array of Bay Area writers, thinkers, artists, and curators who are engaging critical thought at the nexus of art and urban life.

Creative Cities Working Group

The working group on Creative Cities is an invited group of scholars, artists, and curators from across the Bay Area who will meet regularly throughout the academic year to further their research and examine the relationship between creativity and urban places from a broad array of disciplinary perspectives. Stanford Arts Institute Faculty Director Peggy Phelan has invited Michael Kahan, co-director of the Program on Urban Studies at Stanford University, to lead these sessions.


Michael Kahan


Michael B. Kahan is the co-director of the Program on Urban Studies at Stanford University, and a senior lecturer in Sociology. His interest in the historical transformation of urban space has led to publications on topics including the integration of streetcars in the 1850s, sanitation reform in the 1890s, the geography of prostitution in the 1910s, and redevelopment in California in the 1990s. He holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, both in history.

Working Group Statement of Purpose

"Cities have been hubs of creative expression and innovation for millennia. As sociologist Howard Becker reminds us, art is a collective activity, and cities supply many of the social needs—audiences, patrons, suppliers, markets, capital – that enable the creation, distribution, and consumption of art. Of course, cities are not always nurturing environments for creative production. City governments may regulate, harass, and censor; city land prices may be too high for artists to afford. But for better or worse, cities are more than just a background or a setting for art; they actively shape the creation and reception of art in countless ways."

Continue reading full statement here.

Working Group Members


Erina Alejo
Office of the Vice President for the Arts, Stanford University

Kiley Arroyo
Cultural Strategies Council

John Barton
Architectural Design, Stanford University

Tom Beischer
Architectural Design, Stanford University

Sukanya Chakrabarti
Theatre, San Francisco State University

Deland Chan
Urban Studies, Stanford University

Abby Chen
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture

Janet Delaney
Independent Visual Artist

Lindsey Dillon
Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

Gordon Douglas
Urban and Regional Planning, San José State University

Ala Ebtekar
Art & Art History and Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford University

Cynthia Garcia
Modern Thought & Literature, Stanford University

Julia Grinkrug
Architecture, California College of the Arts


Gina Hernandez Clarke
Arts in Undergraduate Education, Stanford University

Michael Kahan
Urban Studies, Stanford University

Ian Klaus
Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Marci Kwon
Art & Art History, Stanford University

S. Topiary Landberg
Film & Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz

Jason Luger
Environmental Design, UC Berkeley

Trena Noval
Fine Arts, California College of the Arts

Grant Parker
Classics and African Studies, Stanford University

Ato Quayson
English, Stanford University

Rose Salseda
Art & Art History, Stanford University

Meg Shiffler
San Francisco Arts Commission

Joshua Stein
Radical Craft

John Zarobell
International Studies, University of San Francisco

Kathy Zarur
Visual Studies, California College of the Arts

Working Group Schedule of Meetings

Participation in the Creative Cities Working Group is by invitation only.


Upcoming Talks

May 7, 2020
Cynthia Garcia
"A World Not (Yet) to Come: Chicanx World-Making in the Age of Neoliberal Capitalism"


Recent Talks

April 16, 2020
Ian Klaus
"The Post-Pandemic Urban Future is Already Here"

February 27, 2020
Gina Hernandez Clarke
"Murals of Casa Zapata"

February 6, 2020
Tom Beischer
"Recovering the Body: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of the Last Column"

January 16, 2020
Ato Quayson
"Orality and Writing: Vehicle Slogans and Inter-mediality in Accra"

November 14, 2019
Sukanya Chakrabarti
"Kalikata to Calcutta to Kolkata to London: Performing Multiple Publics in Between a Colonial Past and a 'Glocal' Present"

October 24, 2019
Meg Shiffler and Barbara Mumby Huerta
"Case Study: Removing the Early Days Sculpture and Responding with the American Indian Initiative"

October 3, 2019
Jason Luger
"'They're lovely creative kids:' Paternalism and elitism in the (post)colonial creative city"

Creative Cities Fellowship

Stanford Arts Institute hosted the Creative Cities Fellowship from 2016-2019 which brought together individuals with a strong record of scholarly research and/or creative work on the intersection of art and urban centers. Reaching across disciplines (such as economics, public policy, urban renewal) as well as artistic media, Fellows examined the role of art in cities, conducted research, and taught an undergraduate course during their year on campus.

The Creative Cities Fellowship was supported by the Office of the President.

Previous Fellows:


Nicholas Gamso - Instructor, San Francisco Art Institute
Liberal Arts

Magie Ramírez - Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University
Department of Geography


Samuel Franklin - Postdoctoral Fellow, Delft University of Technology

Gülgün Kayim - Director of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
City of Minneapolis, Minnesota


Andrew Herscher - Associate Professor, University of Michigan
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Department of the History of Art
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Johanna Taylor - Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts