OA: Samantha Stiles Column September 26, 2008

City would do well to appeal to youth

It’s been my opinion for quite some time that this city does little to attract and keep people my age here.

I haven’t expressed this much, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and before anyone decides to send me a letter telling me that if I don’t like it here then I should just leave, please keep reading.

Recently, Cheryl McNab, executive director of The Art Center, mentioned a book to me called “The Rise of the Creative Class,” by Richard Florida. In the few minutes she spent talking about it, I became intrigued.

Florida defines the creative class as scientists, engineers, architects, designers, writers, artists, musicians or other professionals who use creativity as a factor in their job. It’s these kinds of professionals who stimulate and invigorate the economy in cities, he wrote.

The more I thought about this new social class, the creative class, the more I noticed it in my everyday life.
In doing an interview with Sara Alyn Oakley for a recent art story, she mentioned an age gap in students taking her art classes. Those people between the ages of 25 and 50 aren’t taking classes. Their artwork is also not visible around town. I see that as a tragedy.

Then Terry Shepherd, artist in residence at The Art Center, mentioned in a separate interview, that the majority of The Art Center’s students are older than 60.

There is certainly no lack of artists in this town, but there is a lack of younger creative people in Grand Junction. Where are they, or where did they go?

I wrote a column months back about the effect the closing of The Spotlight Lounge would have on the local live music scene, and it has impacted it greatly.

A few other venues have opened their doors on extra nights for live music, but nothing has really taken
The Spotlight’s place. It’s about the time of the closing that I started to hear more and more people my age talking about leaving this city.

As another example, I see very few young people in local bands. It’s even less in Montrose.

There isn’t really a range of genres represented, either.

I don’t and Florida doesn’t associate creativity with young people. But he does associate the interests of young people with indicators of a progressive and diverse city.

People don’t grow out of interests such as wanting more and better restaurants, bike lanes and retail shops nearby.

Certainly, the Grand Valley has a built–in attraction for artists: the landscape. I think we have to look beyond what already exists and really look at what is missing: affordable housing, a hip nightlife, a thriving live music scene and options.

“Options are what matter,” Florida wrote on page 285 of his book.

My one suggestions would be to create environments where diverse people feel comfortable.

Florida emphasizes throughout his book that creativity drives economic growth. It’s the difference between why some cities grow and prosper and others lag, he wrote.



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