Thursday evening wrapped up with a huge group dinner at Carmelo's. Everyone was in high spirits, and Dave Csintyan, head of the Chamber, gave a toast, ending with, "and no one else can give a toast unless they do so in the form of a limerick." Kevin Reel, headmaster of the Colorado Springs School, stood up to the challenge. Unfortunately I can't recreate his spontaneous poetry from memory, but, inspired, the group then decided to go around the table and create a new poem using rhyming couplets. As you can imagine, this resulted in much hilarity and merriment.
After dinner the honorable Mayor of Manitou Eric Drummond took us down to the Congress Avenue bridge to see the bats come out at dusk. A group of people headed off to the Broken Spoke to do some two-stepping, but I decided to stay on 6th Street with a small group. We wandered into an Irish pub with a blues band playing. The very talented guitar player, Ulrich, from Germany, had just received his Masters in music from UT-Austin. Yet another connection between the university and the lively cultural scene...
Next morning, we had breakfast with Pike Powers (or, he joked, as he is frequently introduced to people, "Austin Powers"). In 1983 Pike began the planning and organizational tactics for attracting two of the nation's most ambitious projects around global competitiveness in electronics and is widely viewed as one of the senior voices on technology development and as the designer of important legislative and public policy solutions resulting in new enterprise and corporate models for attracting and retaining technology-based activities. If that description sounded complex and jargon-y, Pike himself is the opposite of that. He has frequently been quoted in Richard Florida's work and is a spokesperson for why the City of Austin has become successful.
His lesson? All his accomplishments stood on the legs of what Florida calls the "Three Ts:" Tolerance, Technology, and Talent. Listen to each other, widen the conversation, be respectful. One of the most powerful stories he told was about how he invited young people to join the conversation about economic redevelopment. He talked about the importance of understanding people's differences and making sure you are genuinely inclusive. He may be coming to Colorado Springs in November--I will keep you posted. He's well worth hearing.
Our group split again, for the last time. My group made the two-hour drive to San Antonio, during which I had a lively conversation with El Paso County Attorney Bill Louis and Angela Joslyn with Senator Michael Bennet's Colorado Springs Office. We discussed Law school, children's creativity, playground equipment and more. We arrived in San Antonio at the Chamber of Commerce, located right on the Riverwalk. Upon walking in, we saw local contemporary artwork all over all the walls. The Chamber has monthly rotating art exhibits, all featuring local artists.
Representatives from the Chamber, including Chair-elect Carri Baker Wells, and staff Bill Mock and Mark Frye, discussed how they are leveraging San Antonio as an economic center for health technology. Ann Stevens, the President of BioMedSA, a new initiative to promote the local healthcare and bioscience industry and its importance to the local economy. She talked about the medical community's unifying moments--hospitals would fight against each other for patients, doctors, and funding, but when it came to raising the entire industry's profile, their leaders came together, realizing that they needed to do this as a sector.
We also discussed how industry drives job creation and growth. If competitive industries exist in a region, they can serve as an incentive for young people to stay. Congruently, if there are skilled workers in a region, they can convince a business or industry to stick around. This got me thinking: I believe that the only way the creative sector is going to survive is if we can promote ourselves as a viable, productive sector of the economy. Every business leader I know talks about industries as having clear definitions of different industry sectors (Military, health care, nanotechnology, etc.) A recent study by the Colorado Council on the Arts points out that creative industry makes up the 5th largest sector of the Colorado economy. We are big. We matter. So every lesson I try to learn from Business leaders is how to translate those lessons into the work we do.
We can have a touchy-feely feeling of community here in our arts community all we want (and in fact should have a supportive, nurturing environment to bolster our creative spirits), but the fact remains that if there is no infrastructure to support our artists--no market for artists selling their work, no institutions of higher learning offering them superior advanced degree programs, no museums, galleries, or performing arts facilities for our creative people in which to do their work, it is all for naught.
These same San Antonio leaders told us about a project they had been working on called Pathway to a Great City. Please note: the their informational brochure prominently features an enormous piece of public art (Mexican artist Sebastian's The Torch of Friendship (La Antorcha dela Amistad). This document makes a series of recommendations to the City for what it will take to move San Antonio from a good city to a great city. Among their recommendations:
- Great Cities are known for their parks and vibrant cultural and entertainment centers, and as such, this plan calls for a new cultural and performing arts center
- Great Cities think big and know that making their city unique involves a variety of innovative and creative funding strategies, as such, this plan calls for the expansion and improvement of the San Antonio river district
- It is desirable to highlight many cultures and western heritage and provide more access to historical sites and monuments
Food for thought? Perhaps the work ordinary citizens are doing to create a long-term vision for our community through Dream City: Vision 2020 can be harnessed into something similar.
Coming soon: Final thoughts and a night on the town.