Friday, March 30, 2012

The State of the Arts on Main Street USA

I have started this blog to explore ideas about the history and development of "arts" in small town America. I have lived in small towns and big cities. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and found my way to Charlotte, NC when I was 12. Charlotte wasn't anywhere near as booming as it is now, and I have to say that one of the reasons I left is that I didn't particularly like the way it was growing.

My fiancée and I moved to the small town of Ashland, Virginia in 1994, where we rented the top floor of an old Victorian house on the famed railroad tracks. We were married at dusk during the full moon in the back yard, with the ceremony dutifully interrupted by a 100 car freight train. As is the custom in Ashland, we patiently waited for the train to pass before continuing on with the ceremony.

After six years, we built a house out in the country. The postal address is Beaverdam, although Ashland's post office is closer, and Doswell's is even closer.

Ashland bills itself as "The Center of the Universe". If Ashland is the center, Beaverdam, lacking even a single traffic light, is on the other side.

From Charlotte, Gastonia, and Concord, NC;  Richmond, Ashland, Doswell, Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and Arlington, VA; Shepherdstown, WV;  and New York, NY,  I have worked for small community theaters, professional theaters, theme parks, and The Great White Way.

I have worked as a commissioned sculptural artists and designer, and my portfolio includes collaborating with one of the top fountain design/engineering groups in the world. I've worked in film and video, from a music video shot on a consumer video camera I directed and edited myself for a friend's song about Parkinson's Disease, to working on local and national television commercials, independent films, and made for TV movies.

I have an idea or two about what works and what doesn't in regards to developing "arts" in small town America. My plan is to use this blog to explore good ideas as well as bad. To raise warnings to issues I have seen, and to share the excitement of success stories.

I was motivated to get involved locally by an article I had read about the town of Ashland.

"The Ashland Main Street Association (AMSA) presented its third in a series of roundtable discussions to work toward the organization’s aim of revitalizing, renovating, restoring and repurposing the downtown area"

"Dozens of interested residents and business people filled the Ashland Firehouse Theater Feb. 28 to discuss the revitalization of downtown Ashland and the potential for a cultural arts district."

There is a lot of talk going around nationally about the "creative economy", and how arts and culture are a critical part of the success of the revitalization of small communities. I plan to investigate whether this concept is more fact or fiction, and if something that works in one area might be doomed to failure in another.

I hope you enjoy, and contribute your thoughts!

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