In response to our last post about Arts Memphis and its stated goal of creating a vibrant city, Harvey weighed in with these comments:
“Nurturing a creative mindset and community sounds like an excellent idea, but I wonder if such a mindset can be nurtured. My qualm comes from looking back on the unstructured history of Memphis innovation. First, with innovations such as the supermarket (Clarence Saunders), modern hotel (Kemmons Wilson), and profit sharing (Hull Dobbs), I see capitalism (with all its warts) as the main driver of innovation in the history of the city.
“Second, for sure, much of the art that has come out of our city has been groundbreaking and barrier crossing. But, it seems to me that the greatest of the art innovators (Isaac Hayes, Booker T & The MG’s, W.C. Handy etc…) have grown organically. In fact, many of them grew up in a culture that did not bat an eye at, lend a hand to, or give a care about their innovation. They were not present in a nurturing society, yet their artistic output, and its effect in Memphis will probably never be rivaled.
“The same can be said for the great artists, writers, and musicians of the delta. Itta Bena, MS, does not have an arts council, but it does have one of the best writers in America as its son (Lewis Nordan).
“I am not saying that art and creativity are totally at the will of the winds, but I am wrong in saying that great art movements in societies by their nature don’t lend themselves to structure and calculation. Perhaps not as the Renaissance attests with its patrons and prolific and excellent art output. But still, it seems odd to me to create ‘creativity.’ I invite criticisms, comments and suggestions.”
It’s an interesting question. We’re already on the record with our opinions, and Harvey raises interesting points.
So, here are the questions of the week:
Do you think that a city can do anything to encourage creativity? If it can, what should Memphis be doing?