A city of skyscrapers, shopping malls and mass transit would be nothing but an empty shell. Just review recent news reports about new metroplexes built in China where no on lives.

In Durham, visitors find a mix of new and remodeled old, a curious architectural mix to say the least. But the New Bull City is fun because it has a heart.

As WRALTechWire continues its multi-part series about  Durham’s rebirth, today’s report from Insider Jason Parker focuses on the culture of creativity at the heart of a rebirth dating back two decades.

And a recently published “Creative Vitality Index” documents Durham’s growth beyond tech and medicine.

While WRALTechWire focuses on high tech and life science, to tell Durham’s story without recognizing the importance of culture would leave the saga incomplete.

Without a heartbeat.

So let’s examine the Vitality Index, with Sherry DeVries, executive director, Durham Arts Council, and Shelly Green, CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau among the big drivers behind the report. 

At its core are two key sets of data: Arts-related employment and community participation in the arts.

According to the Business Committee for the Arts and Durham: Where Great Arts Happen, the Bull City rated a 1.25 on the index for data from 2011. The national average is 1. That’s the highest score in the state, even though the report notes that Durham’s rating fell from 1.33 in 2010, perhaps a consequence of the Great Recession.

The report found that “creative jobs” increased to 7,335 over the past five years. That’s an impressive growth rate of 22 percent – and it came despite devastation that continues to be wreaked in such industries as newspapers.

The Revenue

A look at revenue by category reveals a rebound in several sectors from 2008, and in some cases at higher levels than before the recession in 2006.

Performing arts (Durham Performing Arts Center at the heart) have more than doubled.

Music store sales are up from both previous benchmarks. iTunes hasn’t killed off the brick-and-mortar sector yet.

Book and record stores are up nearly 20 percent from 2008 but are still down sharply from 2006. (The demise of Borders and decline of other booksellers? Here, digital is a dagger aimed at the throat.)

Art and gallery sales are nearly the same as 2008 but higher than 2006.

As one would expect, digital really has hammered photography store sales, which virtually disappeared.

Also taking hits were non-profit arts organization and arts-active organization revenues.

But one can conclude the overall report card is pretty good.

The Jobs

On the jobs side, there are some very interesting numbers given the retail sales date.

For example, the number of photographers surged by more than 400 to 1,557 over five years.

Reflecting Durham’s entertainment sector, the ranks of musicians and singers more than doubled to 695. However, the number of actors fell, as did music directors and composers. Yet there are many more multi-media artists and animators.

Graphics artists and art directors jobs are way up.

As one would expect, the number of media and communication workers fell sharply, but the number of radio and TV announcers increased.

But the bottom line: 7,335 “creative” jobs in 2011 vs. 6,608 in 2008 and 6,013 in 2006.

So as Durham adds more steel and concrete, restores more ancient buildings and perhaps will offer a new hotel as well as 26-story skyscraper in the next few years, it appears there will be plenty of “creative” people to live and work in the New Bull City.