Monday, February 13, 2012

Encouraging Creative Currency

The exterior of Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall
Recently, I spent the weekend in Manhattan with my mother and sister and had the opportunity, for the first time, to attend a concert at Lincoln Center.

Having been born in New York, grown up at its perimeter and spent two summers living there,it was refreshing to be back in a city with which I am so familiar.

We had the good fortune to be staying in the apartment where my brother-in-law grew up. It was empty while he and his mother were on a family trip and she graciously permitted us to stay and feed her cats.

Manhattan's famous street grid did not happen all by itself. It was planned.
We walked across Central Park and visited the Museum of New York City, which I had never been to before, and I lingered over an exhibit of old maps and photos all about how the Manhattan's famous street grid system was designed (and imposed on a somewhat unwilling populace).

Then we walked down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to dine in their very excellent basement cafeteria and visit an exhibit called "Infinite Jest" about the history and skill involved in caricature.

(I feel sure Mercury cartoonist Alan MacBain truly would enjoy this exhibit.)

The next day I was also indulged with a trip to Harlem to the recently opened and refurbished home build by Alexander Hamilton, one of our most under-appreciated founders.

Despite being Treasury Sec., Hamilton only ever owned one house
And then, that night, we walked the two blocks to Lincoln Center.

When I was in college, I worked scooping ice cream across from Lincoln Center but, as a minimum wage worker trying to pay my bills in Manhattan, attending fancy concerts with people wearing tuxedos and minks was not on my agenda.

But either I've changed or times have changed, because that's not what it's like anymore, at least not of the concert of the Riverside Symphony. Although I forswore my usual blue jeans, others did not. One man in the front row wore an old hat, Army coat and orange pants throughout the entire performance.

Held in the stunningly designed Alice Tully Hall, it was a mix of music by classic composers I am familiar with, and some I am not.
The stunning interior of Alice Tully Hall.

I was particularly taken by a performance featuring only Dieter Hennings on lute and soprano Ilana Davidson, as well as Vivaldi's Concerto in D for Lute and, of course Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.

Several more modern pieces were daring to be sure, but not to my taste. (I sometimes wonder why no one writes classical music anymore that people want to listen to. But that is a musing for another time.)

Rather this musing is about how I spent my time (and money) that weekend: visiting museums, eating out at restaurants, attending a concert. In addition to eating at The Met, we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant and dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

As I stood at the spot where the No. 1 train stops at the intersection of 66th St., Columbus Avenue and Broadway, it was hard to take in the sea of humanity swirling about, talking, laughing and, perhaps most importantly, spending money on things that broadened their horizons.

Was this not the arts and culture economy which Pottstown hopes to pursue so ardently?

Peter Pan at Tri-Pac
And I thought to myself, Pottstown has a fantastic historic site with a great story to tell in Pottsgrove Manor; a great park system and access to the Schuylkill River Trail, a public transportation system; a splendid theater in the Tri-PAC and The Gallery On High and other galleries no doubt to come.

Understand, I am not so daft as to confuse the Big Apple with Pottstown. But it's a matter of scale.

I've read about, and written about, how the arts can drive an economy, but standing outside Lincoln Center was living, breathing proof.

So how does one encourage this? Well, in New York, it happens through a mix of government subsidy, private giving and ticket sales. In other places, these kind of things happen organically, with the artists themselves picking the location and attracting more of the same.

Pottsgrove Manor is a major Pottstown asset
You also have to be sure to hold on to what you've got. Pottstown almost lost Pottsgrove Manor this year due to the budget shenanigans of the Montgomery County Commissioners. Daniel Boone Homestead has been scaled back because of state budget cuts.

And I need not remind you all what a loss is the slow, quiet death of the Pottstown Symphony. I was amazed to arrive in Pottstown in 1997 and discover it had a symphony of such caliber. And not it is lost and I doubt it could ever be brought back.

But there's nothing to say we can't help make the ground a little more fertile to attract them.

And one way you can do that is by taking a survey. Help by doing what Pottstown people do best -- telling everyone what you want.

Creative MontCo is a partnership of community members and organizations developing a comprehensive cultural and creative economy plan for communities throughout the county.

Creative MontCo collectively represents cultural organizations, county government, community planners, business, and education and foundation leaders in Montgomery County, supported through a major grant from the William Penn Foundation. And they want to know what you think.

The CreativeMontCo Community Survey provides an opportunity for all residents and workers in Montgomery County to share their views, opinions, and ideas about arts and culture in the community.

Click here to take the Creative Montco survey.

If you want to get more involved, why not attend a meeting of The Creative Economy Sub-Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 at 9 a.m. in the Montgomery County Planning Commission offices, Room 201, at 1 Montgomery Plaza #201 in Norristown?

If you believe in the idea of making Pottstown (and greater Montgomery County) a place that flourishes with arts and culture, why not make sure its the kind of arts and culture you want?

1 comment:

  1. One place to start is to require elected officials to prove they have been to 5 or more cities in the US. Pottstownians think a trip to Reading, King of Prussia or Allentown is a big trip. People, especially elected officials, in this town need to broaden their horizons. The mindset is too small here. We need to think bigger. This is not possible if you never get out of town.