Thoughts on the Sustainable Creative Community Hearing

Northeast-sunsetI wrote up my notes from the public hearing hosted by NEMAD on June 6 about Creative Sustainability in the Northeast Arts District (you can see the notes here or download a PDF version public-hearing-on-creative-sustainability-in-the-northeast-arts-district), but there were several observations, concerns, and other thoughts that I had personally that I would like to share on my own. As I look at the list, this is far more than one post, so I will likely be doing several and linking to them below as I get them done!

Aspects of the solution, in my mind:

  • “Sustainable” involves creating a system that will be self-nurturing and evolving over time, a “closed loop” system if you will.
  • “Creative” is more than visual arts and more than “fine arts”.
  • “Community” is more than single artists who happen to live and/or work close to one another.
  • There will not be a simple, single solution that will work for everyone or even for any one person over time.
  • A solution that is “given” by politicians will be insufficient and inherently unsustainable – the creatives and the community at large must be active participants in the care and feeding of the environment for it to survive and thrive long term.
  • There are a tremendous number of resources available on creative communities here in MN alone (as I found when I did a Google search for a specific study I read last year). We would do well to look at what others have done and are doing and thoughtfully consider which we would be willing to put effort in to trying.
  • Gentrification and normal economic forces will be what they are. “Artists” have been invaders of a sort ourselves. How do we work with the environment as it is and accept our role in the history?

Ideas that I liked:

  • An arts center or other resources for mid-career and later artists as well as for teaching beginners
  • Including incentives and requirements for “arts” involvement in conferences, group events, and development projects
  • Encouraging investments in areas and for efforts that are welcoming to a diverse community
  • Creating a variation on the “historic district” concept that would be less constraining but encourage the integration of creative work in physical spaces in return for other considerations
  • Focusing on the skills, knowledge, and practical tools needed to ensure that the creative economy (as a whole) continues to grow, thrive, and be an acknowledged influence in the metro area

Proposals that I have concerns about:

  • “Certification” or licensing of “Artists” by a government agency
  • Expecting that having more galleries will magically sell the work of the (real) Artists
  • Narrowly defining the geographic area to just Northeast Minneapolis
  • Building “artist” facilities that are either primarily focused on the visual arts or that utilize some single vision of an artist (someone who is Caucasian, single, young, physically fit, uses public transportation, has formal art training, thrives only if they live and work in the same space, likes to work in a shared communal space, etc.)

Overall, I am concerned about ideas that are limiting to a small group or somehow trying to preserve a past that no longer exists, ignoring that environments evolve over time and we do not get to exist in some magic bubble because of a special status as “Artists”. We have to be willing to be part of the solution and we need to accept that we are part of a whole, which means compromise and sharing benefits as well as costs.

We are creatives. I would challenge us to be better than that, and to be willing to earn our place alongside everyone else.