By Randy Elrod
A convergence city possesses opportunity (a culture that nurtures creative action and game-changing enterprise), innovation (investing in physical, cultural, and intellectual infrastructure that will sustain growth) and energy (that ethereal thing that happens when creative people collect in one place).
When asked about prior knowledge of Nashville, Irish guests visiting O’More College of Design answered, “Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jack Daniels and country music.”
We who call Music City home know there is much more to this artists' paradise. Nashville is known as “The Athens Of The South” because of its myriad institutions of higher education. Today we are a metro area that claims more musicians per capita than anywhere on earth. The Schermerhorn is one of the finest Symphony Halls in the world. We have a Film Festival and a Screenwriter’s Conference. Our Nashville Children’s Theatre has been ranked by TIME magazine as one of the top five children's theatres in the country.
The new downtown library is one of the finest in the world. The library’s Public Arts Program brought in local graphic artists, authors, photographers, painters, sculptors, and metalworkers to enrich the building. Within her environs Nashville contains world famous Music Row, music powerhouses BMI and ASCAP, over 180 recording studios, more than 80 record labels, 130 music publishers, 40 national producers of ad jingles, 27 entertainment publications, 5,000 working union musicians, the Contemporary Christian Music Industry and major book publishing companies, including Ingram Industries - one of America’s largest privately held businesses.
Total employment impact of her music industry is more than 54,000 jobs and the economic impact totals $6.38 billion. Billion! Seattle, Austin, Memphis and the state of Georgia combined totals only $3.14 billion.
This “green” multi-billion dollar arts business also brings the advantage of a clean industry. Brains - not buildings and factories - house the power of the creative class, producing beauty rather than toxic waste.
Like Florence, Italy and the powerful Medici family - Nashville affords local connoisseurs the ability to patronize the arts as do few cities worldwide. We must rethink our buying patterns and look within to our own creatives for art purchases and commissions.
The hope is that when global citizens are asked in the future what Nashville means to them, they will not answer as Edmund Blackadder memorably lamented, “To us the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people”. Sadly, it was probably the citizens of Florence to whom he was referring. For nowhere else were the ingredients that enabled the Renaissance to flourish--a politically-active citizenry, a vigorous humanist movement and abundant wealth--better blended.
Nashville has these ingredients and must seek to enhance them to hold her head high as a global cultural center. A city that chooses not to sit on her creative class as a Renaissance passes her by.
Randy Elrod is a writer, speaker, artist and founder/CEO of the Franklin based Creative Community, Inc. He blogs regularly here at Ethos.