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Exploring Florence's Creative Economy: Marissa Thompson '23 Guest Blog

This past January I (Marissa Thompson '23) had the unique opportunity of pursuing an independent research project in Florence, Italy through the HON-448 Interterm travel course. My project centered around classifying Florence’s Creative Economy through field research conducted with the city’s creative producers. The idea for this topic came after working as a Research Assistant for the Center of CCI where I contributed to research classifying the Creative Economy of California. I really enjoyed applying my knowledge studying the Creative and Cultural Industries in an academic setting to the real world and I jumped at the opportunity to expand this application to the beautiful city of Florence.

Tuscan hand-decorated paper making at Il Papiro’s factory right outside of Florence. Each paper is a unique work of art, using twelve unique dyes that are hand mixed by each individual craftsman to create a unique marbleized design that Il Papiro has become known for. Photo courtesy of Marissa Thompson '23.

Undertaking this research project was an incredibly enriching experience for me. I found it inspiring to see how Florence’s heritage has been woven in to the fabric of the city's creative economy, from the fashion and design industry to the thriving art and tourism sectors. It was a joy to explore the many different facets of the Creative Economy and to understand how they contribute to Florence's unique identity and sense of place and vice versa. Conducting interviews with artisans was a particularly exciting aspect of the research project. Each artisan had such a unique perspective on the creative economy of Florence and it was exciting to gain their insights on the importance of Florence as a space of creativity, the challenges of preserving artisanal crafts, and the sustainability of traditional creative

entrepreneurship among many other topics.

Cobblers at Stefano Bemer’s workshop in Florence. Stefano Bemer's shoes are known for their high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail and are made using traditional techniques and the finest materials.. Photo courtesy Marissa Thompson '23.

Through these interviews, I was able to gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of tradition and heritage in the creative economy of Florence. Many of the artisans I spoke with had been practicing their craft for generations, passing down their knowledge and expertise from parent to child. This sense of continuity and connection to the past was clearly a source of inspiration and pride for them. At the same time, I also saw how these artisans were adapting and innovating in response to changing market demands and new technologies. It was impressive to see how they were able to balance the preservation of tradition with the need to innovate and remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economy.

A workspace at Scarpelli Mosaici in Florence’s city center. Scarpelli Mosaici is an Italian family-owned business that specializes in creating custom handcrafted mosaics using materials located in Tuscany and the Florentine hills. Photo courtesy of Marissa Thompon '23.

Overall, working on this research project was an incredibly rewarding experience for me. It is rare to have the opportunity to engage with a new city to such an immersive degree and I feel so lucky to have been able to explore the rich city of Florence while studying a topic I am so passionate about.

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