Recap: Atlanta’s Creative Economy

aceLast Wednesday, September 10, 2014, was a good day for Atlanta. Bem Joiner, the Director Cultural Innovations for the Tomorrows, launched a panel series called “Atlanta’s Creative Economy”.  The event was held at the Center for Civic Innovations and produced in coordination with One Music Festival.  The mission was to bridge the gap between the economic growth that is already expanding in the city and its creative culture.

On Wednesday evening, a panel of influencers gathered in an open discussion on how to practically move towards a unified resolution based economy where the creative culture can thrive. Panelists included…

+ LaRonda Sutton, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment
+ Sherri Scott, Director of Marketing Services for JWT Atlanta
+ Jason Carter, Creator & Producer of One Music Fest
+ Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council District 2
+ Courtney Hammond, Project Coordinator for Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs
+ Rohit Molhotra, Founder of the Center of Civic Innovation

The moderator, Fahamu Pecou, guided panelists through questions to get the conversation going. Each panelist went over what they were personally trying to do to further the creative economy of Atlanta. As the discussion progressed, the panelists began interchanging ideas and possible solutions.  Atlanta having the highest income inequality in the country is only one of many disturbing facts that were mentioned on the panel. The major speaking point for many of the panelists was a “crossbreed of avenues” that needs to be a priority within the community and the government alike. Much of the great talent that is bread in Atlanta always seems to leave for other cities where they feel their opportunities will be greater, but why not develop our own “home base” to be that culturally thriving economic metropolitan city that we know it can be?

Cities such as New York City and Los Angeles have mastered the concept of a creative economy to where the rest of the country feels that they are the places to creatively progress. However, Atlanta has been THE influential voice of this generation as most of trends in all creative arts seem to stem from our own back yard. “Music is not all we’re doing” said Sherri Scott as she discussed the Atlanta Renaissance that’s taking place in the city. Atlanta may not be a huge city, but it is filled with huge talent that should be benefiting for their geography rather than feeling handicapped by it. Sherri said it best when she explained that here in Atlanta, “you can touch somebody,” and make connections with people directly rather than having to work from the bottom up to access people in powerful positions. “If you can touch them, you can change them.”

The start-up and technology communities of Atlanta was represented on the panel through Rohit Molhotra who expressed his concerns with other panelists as he felt the technological movements have been overlooked by government funding. “The technology community disengages from government,” said Rohit as he continued to explain how many people that have usable and engaging ideas to promote education have been ignored by government funding. His statements although honest from his perspective, were different for other panelists as they’re proactively looking for technological innovations to fund.

As the discussion continued with a few open-ended questions like “What are the arts doing towards the revitalization of the education system?”… Jason Carter stated that the discussion “was needed [and] needed more time… media needs to talk about it!”  Kwanza Hall summed up the panel discussion well with his comment “collective impact is how you make a movement!” This is only the beginning of a larger initiative; an initiative that The Tomorrows will be developing as they define “Atlanta’s Creative Economy”.