Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Cherry on Top Department (& whatnot)

I attended a talk by Creative Cities Founder Peter Kageyama to day at the McPherson Opera House. There were about 90 people there -- a pretty good turnout for 7:30 on a rainy day I thought.
Peter, I'm gonna call him that because that's how he introduced himself to me not because we're close friends or anything, spoke about how creativity and innovation are the natural resources of the 21st Century, similar to how oil was THE natural resource of the 20th Century.
Creativity is standardly associated with artists while innovation is more linked to business and science. Creativity is a divergent process that begins a project. Innovation is a convergent process that creates an end product. Peter feels creativity and innovation are really two sides of the same coin and Apple is the best example of blurring the lines between the two.
It's the responsibility of all citizens to share their ideas and participate in the creative process.
Creative Cities will do their best to attract and retain talent and fight "brain drain." But who's job is it to attract talent to a city? The mayor can be a community's best salesman but very few people but company's don't traditionally have a director of talent.
The competition for talent has become a "shooting war," according to Peter. He gave the example of Louisville, KY's mayor who will hold Kentucky meet-ups in other states to try and attract Kentucky natives to return home. Brains don't drain, they circulate and tend to come back to the community they grew up in.
Cities looking for talent should not focus on just one age group. Recent grads, young professionals, marrieds with children, empty nesters and retirees all tend to look for the same things in a community -- namely affordable housing, entertainment opportunities, transportation options beyond a car and green spaces.
Then he talked about growing your own elephants, fostering krill as well as whales. Despite the mixed metaphors I think his point was to encourage young talent to develop and someday create a large successful company as opposed to going after a whale-sized company in another community.
Ways of appealing to young talent are to appeal to their tribal tendencies, seek out and connect with an influential member of their group and let him or her spread the word. Young talent does not believe advertising and are much more likely to believe what their friends have to say via social media.
My favorite part had to be the Love Notes to a City portion of his speech. He said the reasons we tend to hate a city are that it has problems with its infrastructure -- potholes, lack of parking. The reasons we love a city are the little touches like murals, parks, green spaces -- the cherries on top. Great quote: "Art and culture are what make a city fall in love with itself." Pier Giorgio Dicicco. It's important we take an expansive view of arts and culture -- it's not always packaged in the traditional forms of symphony, opera and ballet. Another good quote: "Museums are the mausoleums where art goes to die." I was sitting next to the McPherson Museum Director Carla Barber who got a chuckle out of that.
What did I take away from the lecture? I found it very helpful that Peter reinforced some of the sentiments and initiatives I've been working hard on this last year. I am a city department and while I can't improve the infrastructure I can help improve the quality of life with the small projects I take on like movies in the park, grants to help others market or stage events, hanging banners around town, holding photo contests and more. In the past the CVB adopted the stance that its job was strictly to promote and market events already taking place. I want to get more involved in hosting festivals and other events that would draw visitors to town. To do this, I need a healthy guest tax revenue, a supportive commission and the creativity and innovation necessary to think of new ideas and opportunities. Having those things is why I love my job so much.