Friday, October 23, 2015

The art of the local

I've known for years about the strong relationships between the arts and local economic development and quality of life. Richard Florida has written about it in his The Rise of the Creative Class and subsequent books. The University of Minnesota's own Ann Markusen's research and writing has made notable contributions to understanding the role of arts and artists in successful community and economic development. As someone who practices poetry and photography, and is a recovering regional planner and increasingly committed locavore, I've been exploring these themes in my home region, the St. Croix Valley, famous for, among other things, its Pottery Tours.

looking downstream toward Stillwater on the St. Croix
looking downstream toward Stillwater on the St. Croix
Photo by J. Harrington

Yesterday I attended "the release event of the Creative Minnesota Report about Chisago County" at the Hallberg Center for the Arts in Wyoming, MN. I had missed the opening of the arts center so I was happy to have a reason to visit. I knew some of the folks there, such as Mary Minnick-Daniels, Executive Director of the East Central Regional Arts Council, and Guillermo Cuellar, a noted local potter, from previous artistic and artisanal activities. I was particularly enthused that Chisago County's economic development director and the mayor of Wyoming, MN were not only in attendance but participants.  I learned a lot and came away with a question still resonating in my mind: "what does a local supply chain for artists look like?" In particular, I spoke with couple of the potters in attendance about whether their clay is locally sourced. Each said it's not but they wished it were. From what I heard yesterday, I'm not sure the value of local sources of materials has been included in reports to date. You can expect to read more about this here in future postings, because it offers a chance to try to pull together a number of, till now, largely separate themes on bioregionalism, economic development, arts and localism, including even threads of history and indigenous culture and personal development in the weave (to mix my metaphors).

no mention of clay in this geology plaqu
no mention of clay in this geology plaque
Photo by J. Harrington

While sitting and listening, several other concepts occurred to me that may help me jump-start a series of chapbooks I've been blocked on for quite a while. Julie Cameron, in her books, makes a case for "artist's dates" to reward, encourage and inspire our inner artists. I've been ignoring that advice for a long time. Yesterday's attendance has convinced me that her strategy is ignored at the peril of my successful creative life. Just buying and reading books isn't enough to engage and satisfy my muse(s). I'll keep in mind from now on that both my head and my heart need feeding.

Anna Akhmatova



When, in the night, I wait for her, impatient,
Life seems to me, as hanging by a thread.
What just means liberty, or youth, or approbation,
When compared with the gentle piper's tread?

And she came in, threw out the mantle's edges,
Declined to me with a sincere heed.
I say to her, "Did you dictate the Pages
Of Hell to Dante?" She answers, "Yes, I did."

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, August, 2000
Edited by Orit Bonver, August 2000

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