Creative Cities

For the 2017-2018 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 pose questions about the role of art in reimagining the urban sphere, creative economies, urban studies, the built environment, and more.

There are two main programmatic elements to this project: our year-long fellowship, and the Creative Cities Working Group.

Our year-long fellowship invites two scholars to Stanford to conduct research in this area, teach one class each, and further the campus conversation about creative cities. This year’s fellows are Samuel Franklin and Gülgün Kayim. Each will have a public talk and event about their research – further details will be posted on this page as they develop.

The Creative Cities 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 Fellowship

Stanford Arts Institute hosts the Creative Cities Fellowship which brings 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 will examine the role of art in cities, conduct research, and teach an undergraduate course during their year on campus.

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

Current Fellows:


Samuel Franklin

Stanford Arts Institute will host Samuel Franklin during 2017-18 as a Creative Cities Fellow.


Samuel Franklin is a historian of twentieth century America. His research asks why "creativity" suddenly burst into the American lexicon in the 1950s and quickly became one of the defining, if perpetually ill-defined, cultural values of our time. Despite its ring of timelessness and universality, he finds, creativity was an idealogical adaptation to the practical and moral crises of white collar work under postwar capitalism. Sam's writing appears in the Business History Review, and he has collaborated with scholars across the social sciences and humanities. He completed his PhD at Brown University, where he also holds an MA in Public Humanities. His public work includes exhibition development at the American Museum of Natural History and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. While at Stanford he will research the role of the concept of creativity in reconfiguring disciplinary boundaries on campus and sectoral boundaries in urban economies.


ARTSINST 184: Creativity: Anatomy of a Buzzword

Winter 2018 | 4 Units
Tuesday / Thursday 10:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Creativity is one of the defining values of our time, embraced by corporate CEOs, kindergarten teachers, and starving artists alike. Yet it not always clear what creativity means. This course will explore how the capacious concept of creativity has shaped contemporary ideals of work, art, technology, human nature, and the good society. Using a mix of popular texts, contemporary scholarship, and classics of social thought, we will look at what kinds of products, places, and people count as 'creative' in public conversation, and why. Particular attention will be paid to how different overlapping notions of creativity have guided arts policy, business practices, and urban economic strategy over the last few decades of capitalist development. Using Stanford itself as a case study, students will conduct field work to discover how the concept of creativity operates across and between the various departments, disciplines, and centers on campus, from the fine arts to psychology to business. This research will culminate in the final group project: a multimedia archive and digital concept map of creativity discourse at Stanford. Students will come away from the class with concrete research skills and theoretical tools that will enable them to critically engage with any big ideas in the public sphere, as well as a better understanding of recent economic and cultural history underpinning our everyday assumptions and widely held values.

Gülgün Kayim

Gülgün Kayim

Stanford Arts Institute will host Gülgün Kayim during 2017-18 as a Creative Cities Fellow.


Gülgün Kayim researches the role of narrative in the built environment with a focus on socially engaged creative practices, contested landscapes, urban planning and economic development. She holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from the University of Minnesota and a degree in intercultural performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gülgün has worked for many years in the fields of public art and location-based performance and directs the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy in the City of Minneapolis. She has authored book chapters, policy documents, reports and articles in the area of creative sector economics, cultural policy and cross-sector collaboration. In 2014 Gülgün received a public service Rising Star Award from Hamline University in recognition of the innovative Creative City Making program. Her performance work has been presented in the US, Russia, Cyprus, and the UK and recognized through a number of local, national and international fellowships, awards and grants. She is a core member of the international artist network Mapping Spectral Traces.


ARTSINST 182: Activating Urban Spaces: Materializing Hidden Narratives in the Urban Environment

Spring 2018 | 3-4 Units
Tuesday / Thursday 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM

This course will investigate the organization and shaping of public space from the perspective of story and narrative. The course will consider how authorized narratives feature in the built environment and in the social spaces and usage of the city and how unauthorized, sometimes contentious narratives lurk beneath the surface and persist on the "skin" of the city. It will investigate the role of artists and the arts in "mapping" or surfacing alternative stories, concepts and imaginations of how the city is or can be.

Inspired by the writings of Michel DeCerteau and Italio Calvino, this class explores the role of narrative in the city and the imagination from the perspective of cultural memory, lived experience, usage of space and organization of the built infrastructure. It offers an alternative approach to thinking about cities, how they are formed and how they function. This class will utilize and combine active field research methods with creative practice. Locations for our field research and excursions will include areas around Stanford and the Bay Area. The class will function as a hybrid seminar and collaborative studio workspace supporting students interested in applying creative practices to field research to develop methods for materializing narratives in various forms of public performance or place-specific art.

Previous Fellows:


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

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. Additionally, SAI will partner with the Stanford Human Cities Initiative, who will co-host one session in the series as part of Just Placemaking: Arts and Community Development Towards an Equitable City.


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


Aku Ammah-Tagoe
English, Stanford University

John Barton
Architectural Design, Stanford University

Neeraj Bhatia
The Urban Works Agency at The California College of the Arts
The Open Workshop

Jonathan Calm
Art Practice, Art & Art History, Stanford University

Sukanya Chakrabarti
Palo Alto Children's Theatre

Deland Chan
Urban Studies, Stanford University

Jeff Chang
Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford University

Abby Chen
Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco

Robert Dawson
Art & Art History, Stanford University

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

Steven Feld
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Shelley Fisher Fishkin
English and American Studies, Stanford University

Thomas Hansen
Anthropology, Stanford University

Andrew Herscher
Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan
Creative Cities Fellow, Stanford Arts Institute

Betti-Sue Hertz
Curator, Arts Administrator, Writer and Educator

Melissa Kagen
German Studies, Stanford University

Janette Kim
Architecture, California College of the Arts and All of the Above

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

Derek Ouyang
Civil & Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Grant Parker
Classics and African Studies, Stanford University

Peggy Phelan
English and Theater & Performance Studies, Stanford University
Denning Family Director, Stanford Arts Institute

Eric Rogers
Embassy Network and Immanent Urbanisms

Jacqueline Siapno
Independent Scholar/Musician, Member of Innovations in Peacebuilding

Johanna Taylor
Creative Cities Fellow, Stanford Arts Institute

Fred Turner
Communication, Stanford University

Tom Winterbottom
Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Stanford University

Working Group Schedule of Meetings

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


Upcoming Talks

Future sessions will be announced in the fall of 2017.

Recent Talks

May 18, 2017
Ala Ebtekar
"Art, Social Space, and Public Discourse"

May 4, 2017
Abby Chen, Betty Yu, and Tomie Arai
"Here to Stay: Using the Power of Culture to Fight Displacement" (co-sponsored with Human Cities Initiative)

April 27, 2017
Eric Rogers
"Immanent Urbanism(s) and Critical Hedonism(s)"

April 20, 2017
Joy Siapno
"Destruction/Reconstruction/Redestruction of Cultural Heritage Sites in Comparative Context"

March 2, 2017
Johanna Taylor
"Aesthetic Justice in New Orleans"

February 16, 2017
Moy Eng and Risa Shoup
"Leveraging Economic Growth for Cultural Vitality" (co-sponsored with Human Cities Initiative)

February 2, 2017
Andrew Herscher
"'The Architectural Imagination': Creativity, Austerity, and Political Violence in Detroit, 2015 - Present"

January 19, 2017
S. Topiary Landberg
"Exit Zero: San Francisco Freeway to the Future"

December 1, 2016
Neeraj Bhatia and Derek Ouyang
"Infrastructural Opportunism and Common Ground: Designing for Discovery, Empathy, and Equity"

November 3, 2016
Susan Moffat
"Nature, Art, and Homelessness at a Shoreline Landfill: The Albany Bulb" (co-sponsored with Human Cities Initiative)

October 20, 2016
Grant Parker
"Public History after Rhodes Must Fall"

October 6, 2016
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
"Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret Literary Landscape of American Cities"