Written by Michaela MacBlake Matthews
How can we collectively rise above the concrete jungles of white and chrome, and reimagine our cities and towns with social and economic value?
Building communities is no small act. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village’. It is well worth the effort, though, as creativity breathes life into towns and cities of all sizes! The impacts of creative culture are not only social and emotional, but also economic in the long term. So… why is it so tricky to foster this atmosphere on a large scale, and how can we contribute to it locally?
Creativity Is High-Risk, High-Reward
When a city or a town begins to invest in a creative culture, they first have to step away from the grounding, safe, and ultra-professional world of chrome and beige. Just like in people, who are often afraid to paint their walls a bright color, or clash with a bold fashion choice, cities often struggle to embrace aesthetics simply because they know it is a delicate balance to curate. Those first few streaks of creativity will stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise bland area, and often must be executed very carefully.
Likewise, the first steps toward building a creative community can feel overwhelming, like a fish out of water. Take the colorful houses in New Orleans, for example. When creativity is allowed to develop into full neighborhoods, there is strength in numbers! The overall appearance of these homes blends into a lifestyle. A single colorful building, however, may run the risk of being alone in its bravery for years before the community has time to pick up momentum around the culture.
Sometimes, the first splash of color can feel out of place, but the flipside to standing out is… standing out. In a world where one town may bleed into the next, creativity creates a town identity. It holds a place in your mind, and distinguishes your community as its own unique experience. This isn’t just a bonus for the locals, but an edge on tourism and real estate desirability, as well.
How Can You Build A Creative Community?
Not all aspects of a creative community have to be sweeping, grand establishments. Due to the nature of creative people, most of the fuel behind these types of cities is improvised, movable, or passive in nature.
Nothing says ‘We like it here’ like seeing two or three street musicians out and about. Even further, plein-air painters, jugglers, and others add to the warmth of a town, and make a simple park bench feel like a night out. Naturally, this helps to pull in younger crowds and bring the extroverts out to socialize!
Yarn bombing is an inviting and completely removable phenomenon. The legality of it varies by each local law, but for those cities that do allow it, it is an extra special touch to make a tree lined street or a lightpost feel just like home, even to a stranger.
Parades, art walks, festivals, and movies in the park all help contribute to an active community. These sorts of events improve the lifestyle of locals drastically and help encourage neighborly networking throughout the local area.
Flash mobs are the unicorns of the century. Catching one requires being in the right place at just the right time and is essentially like winning the entertainment lottery. They also generate a lot of buzz for a city, with little other than some time and a couple Saturdays invested, depending on the choreography.
Murals are probably the simplest way to bring creative energy into a city or town. They take up no space and they last for years, often becoming landmarks of the area. Typically, any given area will host a number of artists who would be elated for the opportunity - it’s only a matter of finding them.
Unique Small Businesses
A small business with a slight theme goes a long way toward creating memories. While not all coffee shops need to commit to the full immersion style of The Rainforest Cafe, it is safe to say that strong ambiance does wonders for the intrigue and memorability of not just a single meal or shopping trip, but the town as a whole.
Weaving It All Together
All in all, creativity may take a little while to seed, but the long term effects are wonderfully contagious. Creative communities signal freedom and abundance to all who live in and visit them, bringing joy and celebration into everyday life! It may take a village to fully embody creative culture, but it only takes a few brave souls to go first and pave the way.
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