Monday, July 5, 2010

CreateHere (Chattanooga, TN)

In the ABOUT section of CreateHere’s website it reads, “we love our city for what it is, has been and could become.” Funny, since that’s what I think when I think of Buffalo. I see Buffalo for what it could be. So much potential! In stating this sentiment, the organization CreateHere could be anywhere, really—a city in Nebraska or a city in England, or wherever—because it is a universal sentiment: pride of place.

Pride of place. What does that mean? How does this idea manifest itself in an organization? Well, the idea of placemaking--of creating a space where people want to live and interact and invest in--has been around for ages, but what does it really mean to “make a place?” For CreateHere it seems as though making places comes with investing in the people of a place. Not necessarily first, but perhaps in conjunction with the beautification of an area, with supporting local businesses, etc. What caught my eye about this organization is the way in which they use their programs as a method to “harness the economic potential of creative individuals.”

Who counts as a creative individual? At face value, a creative individual might be an artist, a person who paints, sculpts, carves, photographs, makes t-shirts, and generally documents a place. The result of their work is a commentary or criticism on the place or the social happenings of that place. Well, what if we took those individuals and supported them monetarily? It would be a statement of: “we believe in fostering the creative culture in our city.” Not only that, but perhaps these rising artists within the community fostering the creative community may have a creative influence on other sectors of the city such as organizations, businesses, and even government. CreateHere has a program called MakeWork which grants money to individuals. Under the stipulations of receiving money, each artist must attend sustainability sessions through their other program SpringBoard.

Being an Environmental Policy major, I immediately thought sustainability in an environmental context, but what SpringBoard seems to be more is a peer-to-peer network of individuals who throw ideas around and come up with strategies for success. This can definitely help ensure the longevity of the influence that the artists have in the Chattanooga community, but I am also interested in my original thought. What if these artists had to attend environmental sustainability sessions? Would the materials and dyes and paints and methods become way less toxic? Would their work be influenced by this idea of environmental stewardship? If the economy is a “green” economy, what will that mean for the creative minds of a city in the near future? I think that CreateHere has their mind in the right place in supporting first, and then providing the artists tools for their continued success, because without those first 2 steps there would be no room for talking about toxicity of materials, etc. But I wonder…could there be a third step of environmental stewardship which would make the program increasingly unique and perhaps more attractive to a wider range of funders?

My second interest lies internally: how does the organization function? Who are the leaders? How do they do outreach? How do they give all this money to support artists?

All questions to be answered in an interview, but what I noticed immediately about this organization was that like the CWLI (see previous post), CreateHere believes in having good leadership to drive their mission and to drive change in the city they love. To this end, they have created a program called LeadHere. The program is made of fellows who are selected in an application process. The fellows enter into CreateHere and experience hands on community building efforts, which is something that I think is invaluable. How does one get experience in leadership and community building efforts by simply studying it? A person must become ENGAGED. The best part of this program seems to be that it fosters and encourages creative solutions to pervasive problems within the community, though that could be me just hoping that this is the main goal of the LeadHere program. Often organizations function very differently from what it seems like on the surface, so I will have to investigate upon interviewing them. I was thinking, though, that there needs to be something similar in Buffalo…an organization that gives creative people the power to achieve innovative solutions, since doing the same old same old often seems to fall a little short, no?


  1. I love this concept... we had friends visit us from the West Coast, and at one point they said, people here really LIKE Buffalo, huh? [They said the same thing about NYC when we went there.] Which seemed like a strange thing to notice... until I realized that's something it doesn't seem like they have alot of out there, "Pride of place." Thanks for clarifying what I was feeling but couldn't really put in words... I think I'll send this to them!
    But on the issue itself, I really think Buffalo has a great foundation for something like this to flourish. As an artist, who has moved back to the area and re-fallen in love with the city I grew up in, [possibly annoyingly so] I would love to be involved in something like this in Buffalo! [sorry for the essay, I'm enjoying reading your blog!!]

  2. Aly...glad you're reading my blog! I have to admit, much of this is for my own purposes...simply to motivate me to really research the organizations before I interview them in a few weeks...but please please please continue to read on and comment on whatever you find interesting and potentially a good idea to try out in Buffalo! There will be a few more posts about organizations similar to CreateHere coming up in a few days, but if you can't wait that long, check out, based in New Orleans...