Thursday, March 27, 2008

Louisiana Gets Creative Economies

[25 March 2008 - From New York - Applied Imagination - By Steven Dahlberg] Louisiana Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu came to New York this week to share Louisiana's efforts to put culture and creativity at the heart of economic and community development. He was joined at Jazz at Lincoln Center by his colleagues from the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development and the Cultural Economy Foundation, along with New Orleans native and Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson and New Orleans native and pianist Jonathan Batiste.

Landrieu described the Louisiana Cultural Economy Initiative and announced one of its key components -- the World Cultural Economic Forum (WCEF) to be held in New Orleans from October 29 to 31, 2008. This event will bring together policy-makers, artists, practitioners, cultural workers, educators, economic development leaders, business people and others from around the world. The International Centre for Creativity and Imagination is pleased to be assisting the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development with this event.

One of the challenges of linking culture and economy, Landrieu said, is how people can do what they love and make a living at it -- in the community in which they live. That is, how do you keep the creative talent in your community -- and the economic impact they produce -- rather than exporting it to other communities.

Landrieu raised some important questions that Louisiana is exploring on an on-going basis and that will be explored at the WCEF:
  • How do we grow culture from the ground up to capture the inherent authenticity and richness of a community?
  • How do we engage the creative endeavors of both the 'front-of-house" artists and the "back-of-house" staff?
  • How do we add value to intellectual capital?
  • How do we capture the creative things that are native to a community and share them with the world?
  • What is the relationship between poverty and culture?
  • How can culture re-create neighborhoods and make them safe? ("This is the ultimate goal of sharing New Orleans' and Louisiana's cultural economic success," he said.)
  • Is democracy more important than culture? Can you have both? Is the best way to spread democracy by spreading culture?
Landrieu is asking pretty big and important questions. Let's hope these questions rise to a national discussion in the coming election cycle.

It's important to teach creativity and arts if you are going to grow a community's economy through culture, Landrieu said. This is one reason that Louisiana has mandated arts education for all students from kindergarten through 12th grade. "Art and culture have a residual effect on all," he said.

Louisiana wants to be the focal point for a global discussion about culture, which is why New Orleans is hosting the WCEF. The intersecting issues of culture, race and poverty are not unique to New Orleans, but issues facing communities all over the world. The WCEF seeks to provide a space where people can talk and design and then go back to their own communities and tap into the authenticity and richness of culture there.

In introducing actress Patricia Clarkson, Landrieu commented on the network of his Louisiana creative peers -- which include Clarkson, Wynton Marsalis (artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center) and Harry Connick, Jr. -- "when you work with creative people who believe that anything is possible, you find out that it is."

"We are the products of Louisiana," Clarkson responded. "My state made me the actress I am today -- what I was surrounded by. Sometimes I return home to get a charge, a jolt."

Watch for more information about the World Cultural Economic Forum coming soon.

[Pictured above are musician Jonathan Batiste, actress Patricia Clarkson and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu]

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