Creative Underclass

The Creative Underclass: Youth, Race, and the Gentrifying City (Duke University Press).

As an undergraduate at Brown University, Tyler Denmead founded New Urban Arts, a nationally recognized arts and humanities program primarily for young people of color in Providence, Rhode Island. Along with its positive impact, New Urban Arts, under his leadership, became entangled in Providence’s urban renewal efforts that harmed the very youth it served. As in many deindustrialized cities, Providence’s leaders viewed arts, culture, and creativity as a means to drive property development and attract young, educated, and affluent white people, such as Denmead, to economically and culturally kick-start the city. In The Creative Underclass, Denmead critically examines how New Urban Arts and similar organizations can become enmeshed in circumstances where young people, including himself, become visible once the city can leverage their creativity to benefit economic revitalization and gentrification. He points to the creative cultural practices that young people of color from low-income communities use to resist their subjectification as members of an underclass, which, along with redistributive economic policies, can be deployed as an effective means with which to both oppose gentrification and better serve the youth who have become emblematic of urban creativity.

The introduction to The Creative Underclass can be read for free on the Duke University Press website.

You can read a post on the Duke University Press blog in which I discuss the origins of the book.

You can order the book here:
– Duke University Press (North America)
– Combined Academic Publishers (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific)
Use E19DENMD to receive a 30% discount on the paperback version.

Praise for The Creative Underclass

“This book should officially knock Richard Florida’s a-political, race-blind The Rise of the Creative Class off its throne and into the mud. The Creative Underclass has no ambitions to take over the reins.”

— ReadMore, Good Reads

“For those who are interested in cultural policy and youth programmes, this book is an important awakening for those who uncritically accept the discourse of creativity as a force for good. “[It] destabilises the taken-for-granted assumption about arts activities as ‘positive activities’ through which young people can ‘better themselves’. This book is a timely reminder that youth development programmes do not solve economic problems.”

— Frances Howard, Cultural Sociology

“… important reading for those working with youth, in urban centres and within the context of the “creative industry”. It is a reminder that art is never just art and culture is never neutral. They are tools of power, so mind whose power they serve.”

— Darlene Clover, International Review of Education

“For historians of education this book reminds us of the tensions and contradictions of philanthropic work across the past two centuries. We see the problems of appreciating ‘underground movements’ in arts education and the pressures and conformity that seek to transform creative work into something familiar and readily understood by those with the power and the financial capital.”

— Lottie Hoare, History of Education

“Tyler Denmead offers a far-reaching look into the complexities of creative communities, implicating factors involving labor, economics, race, the arts, education, urban planning, and politics, all while joyfully, lovingly, and thoughtfully describing stories from young peoples’ lives. Denmead describes these multiple perspectives and what young people taught him and his change of perception with humility. His book’s credibility and power are even more compelling because of his capacity to comprehend and critique an institution he himself constructed. I’m in awe of all the intricacies and implications that Denmead has revealed.”

— Rebekah Modrak, author of Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice

“Since the early 2000s we have regarded the creative class as those with the greatest access to capital, technology, and robust economic environments. Tyler Denmead reveals a portion of the creative class that is dynamic and generative and forgotten—low income youth in under-served communities. This is a must-read for reimagining the creative talents of today’s urban youth.”

— Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin–Madison