Sunday, August 24, 2014

Artists -- Community Assets

Yesterday was the first time in quite awhile that I've been "up north." Allowing for some changes at the margins, it looks pretty much as I remembered it. The 19th Annual Northwoods Arts & Book Festival was a major aesthetic improvement over all the highway strip commercial development that has grown like toadstools in Minnesota. On the one hand, it might be reassuring to know you can get exactly the same burger or soft drink in Baxter that you've become used to in Bloomington. Maybe it's also helpful to know that 371 in Baxter works the same as 494 in Bloomington. Then again, the more every place (no place is every place) everywhere becomes like everywhere else, the less reason I find to go anywhere. Alternatively, it seems to me that one of the advantages local businesses can have over online shopping is that people can experience people in local places created by local businesses. I can guarantee you that I wouldn't drive 150 or 200 miles to get the same food I can get at home. If any of the local art fairs have a book and poetry section, I haven't noticed. Next month, the Jack Pine Writers Bloc is having a writing workshop and book release party just south of Park Rapids. I don't think I'm going to be able to fit that trip into my schedule, but I wish I could.

Lake Mille Lacs, launch and "walleye chop"
Photo by J. Harrington

Much of Minnesota has become too much like the rest of Minnesota except for one of our greatest assets, our writers and artists. They're all different enough to make almost any trip worthwhile, unless, of course, all you want is "same old, same old." The rest of the good news is the growing recognition of the role that cultural resources can play in economic and community development. The International City Managers Association identified these

"Benefits of Asset-based Economic Development

Asset-based economic development can have many benefits for communities, including:
• Long-term, sustained economic growth
• Local return on investment
• Job creation and retention
• Increase in per capital income
• Increase in local tax base
• Strengthening regional networks"
I have noticed, though, that trying to manage local cultural assets, including writers and poets, can be as challenging as managing the walleye population in Mille Lacs or chosing the right novel to read.

To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels

By Christian Milne 

To love these books, and harmless tea,
   Has always been my foible,
Yet will I ne’er forgetful be
   To read my Psalms and Bible.

Travels I like, and history too,
   Or entertaining fiction;
Novels and plays I’d have a few,
   If sense and proper diction.

I love a natural harmless song,
   But I cannot sing like Handel;
Deprived of such resource, the tongue
   Is sure employed — in scandal.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.