Why We're All About Sharing the Magic in the Middle
Take it from our Publisher, Elizabeth Tucker: creatives are bringing about inspiring change in St. Louis. The Creativity Issue, out now, spotlights their work, asks St. Louisans to invest in their artists and tells the rest of the world to take note.
ONE OF MY FRIENDS told me that there was a point in history when the human race was almost extinct and it was the artists who figured out how to save us. I haven’t fact-checked this because I’m too attached to the image of people dressed in SKIF-like clothing, gathering in secret rooms and conspiring to save the world. Throughout history, artists have transformed communities, revitalized neighborhoods and inspired people to think, to act, to look outward, and to look inward.
For me, artists serve as a spirit guide on how to live, approach business and take part in the community. When I first learned about the events in Ferguson, I wasn’t sure what to do. I remember receiving an email from an art organization about artists getting together to talk about what to do, and I signed up immediately. More than 60 artists showed up that night. It was an emotional discussion; people were screaming at each other, while others quietly sobbed. At one point, the organizer tried to pivot the conversation, and one of the artists said, “It’s too soon for solutions. We need to be sad. We need to mourn. We need to just be willing to sit together in this mess.” We sat there in silence for a few minutes, holding space for emotions that have been ignored for far too long. Afterward, several people exchanged emails and phone numbers to keep the conversations going. I walked away that evening reminded of the importance of staying present and showing up for the messiness in the middle.
Though we have long recognized the creativity inherently required in fields such as architecture, graphic design and science, we are now beginning to better understand its value in engineering, business, education, law and health care. I believe the creative economy centered on innovation, risk-taking and openness is critical to our region’s growth. The author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida, said, “Beneath the surface, unnoticed by many, an even deeper force was at work—the rise of creativity as a fundamental economic driver, and the rise of a new social class, the Creative Class.” Florida makes a case for cities like St. Louis to reimagine themselves by focusing resources on members of the creative class such as entrepreneurs, makers and artisanal food purveyors.
The other night, someone said that they were embarrassed that St. Louis is known for three things: “Floods, Ferguson and the Rams leaving.” This brought up three questions for me: Why are we embarrassed by natural disasters beyond our control? Why are we embarrassed about an awakening that happened right here in America’s heartland? And, the Rams left? Later that night, a woman gave me a children’s book that shows how art has played a significant role in bringing together the community in Ferguson. It has pictures of people who came together and the art that was created to support dialogue, understanding and change. One of the murals portrays a quote from Jonathan Larson: “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”
This city has incredible makers, artists, writers, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, creative agencies, architects, activists and world-renowned art institutions. As our region wrestles with who we are going to be over the next twenty years—where the economic growth will come from, how we can attract and retain talent and how we can set an example for the rest of the country on what social change should look like—let’s consider investing in the creatives, and show the world that there is magic in the messiness of the middle.
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