The cultural economy of American cities emerged as an important topic in cultural policy at the end of the 21st Century, when cultural policy makers started to highlight the multifaceted dynamics of cultural activities and city officials started to pay attention to their great potentials for the growth and well-being of the city. This moved cultural policy from the national to the local level and two main problems emerged. First, it is not always agreed what constitutes cultural economy; the academic literature and reports are not consistent in the language, and their object of analysis is defined by different boundaries. Second, the connections between the cultural economy and urban policymaking are unclear due to the lack of standardized structure in city bureaucracy and the intricacy of metropolitan governance, in particular, for what concern suburbanization.
The purpose of my dissertation is to inform decision making for cultural planning by exploring the connections between cultural economy and urban policymaking. To this end, I develop a research strategy that entails two steps: (1) build a definition of cultural economy that can be operationalized, and (2) find an analytical approach that can link the data about the cultural economy to the complexity of urban policymaking. First, I review a broad range of literature, categorizing the different approaches and identifying three main domains: industries, institutions, and districts. They are characterized by three main differences - foundational concepts, economic functions, and interaction mechanisms - but merge in an inclusive definition of the cultural economy.
Second, I use a geographical information system (GIS) as method of analysis. GIS is a powerful analytical tool; creating maps, it grasps the administrative, social, and economic aspects intertwined with culture.
My empirical analysis focuses on Columbus, Ohio, USA, and its suburbs. I locate their cultural economy identifying its breadth and articulation. Then, I explore the connections of cultural economy with urban policymaking: I analyze the Neighborhood Liaison Areas and their socioeconomic characteristics, I map the situation in the suburbs, and, finally, I overlay and compare the Neighborhood Liaisons Areas with the suburbs.