CARLIE KOLLATH: We need to capitalize on creativity

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

We can’t sit on our “ASSets.” That was the advice Gov. Haley Barbour gave to attendees at the state’s first creative summit in Jackson earlier this month. And yes, he put emphasis on the first syllable of the word.
The summit was geared at realizing the economic potential of the state’s artistic and creative community. The summit also marked an official partnership between the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Read between the lines – the powers-that-be now see there is money to be made in the arts and in the creative sector.
Barbour admitted during the keynote speech that he had been among the doubters of the money-making potential. But then he thought about Gail Pittman, a Mississippian who has turned her pottery into a nationally known business. Many other examples were given throughout the summit.
About 61,000 people in the state work in jobs or professions that are considered part of the creative economy, according to a study (MScreativeeconomy.com) unveiled at the summit.
Much attention was given to our state’s rich musical heritage. Barbour said as a state, we’re doing a better job of promoting our musical roots, but we can do better.
Ocean Springs was cited as a success story. The town on the coast has cultivated its artistic reputation and has turned art into a full-fledged business. The downtown area has galleries, boutiques, historical architecture, cafes and other items that appeal to arts-related tourists.
Barbour challenged the attendees to think about how each of us could capitalize on our town’s assets.
I kept thinking about an idea that people way smarter than me floated a few years ago – turn Mill Village into a music colony. The idea is based on what Paducah, Ky., did for visual artists with its relocation program.
Paducah had a neighborhood that needed to be reinvigorated. At the same time, it wanted to add a cultural element that would help the city entice retirees. Paducah offered financial incentives to the artists with the catch that they had to produce work in the neighborhood.
Artists bought into the idea. The neighborhood has had $30 million invested since 2000. It’s been a good tourism draw for Paducah, as well.
The idea floated a few years ago is to convert Mill Village into an area that houses musicians. The catch would be that the musicians have to perform a certain number of times a week or month. The dream is that there would be live music every night of the week in Tupelo – and on the streets in Mill Village.
It’s a good goal for quality of life for residents and for tourists who visit the birthplace of Elvis, one of the city’s first porch performers.
Carlie Kollath is a business reporter at the Daily Journal. Contact her at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.