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Creative Attainment

by Teresa Hoelle

March 9,2010

One thing I love about moving to a new city is the sense of discovery one undergoes. Even the mundane experiences seem to somehow be an exciting adventure– getting lost, and finding yourself. Alongside the dizzying, disorienting emotions, moving offers an opportunity to reconnect with an inquisitive childlike wonder, allowing for a reevaluation of oneself and of one's personal direction.

I moved to Charlotte in July 2009, and as the newness of the Queen City waned, I found myself wondering more about the depth of the city I was beginning to call home. I wanted to learn about Charlotte’s creative class. Though young, how innovative was the city? And, for that matter, why was I so fixated on finding creativity in Charlotte?

As I was asking these questions about Charlotte, I realized the irony in that others were simultaneously asking very similar questions of me. Having relocated with my boyfriend, a classically-trained musician, people naturally were curious to pose questions of me such as, 'Are you also an artist?' Their sincere and innocuous inquiries led me to a crossroad of introspection and self-examination. In the process of evaluating myself, I also unearthed some answers about Charlotte’s creative capacity.

To everyone who asked: Yes! I am creative. No, I don’t play an instrument. And I have yet to produce anything to enact on a stage or hang in a gallery. However, I fundamentally agree with Daniel Levitin’s[i] position that without solid reasoning, humans have somehow developed a line of demarcation between musicians, artists, creators, and the rest of the population. In other words, does it really mean that because my profession is not in a 'creative industry' that I am not creative?

We’ve allowed ourselves to step away from the reality that everyone has an imaginative capacity and a role to play in a creative community. Right-brained or left-, anyone willing can be a creative participant. And, when more participate, we individually and collectively benefit.

Creative attainment is but a function of a curious attitude which liberates the individual, coupled with a committed behavior that allows the creative nature to surface. Einstein, no doubt a creative person, confined himself in silence for thirty minutes a day with only a notepad and pencil to capture the big ideas that emerged. If an individual can become more creative by practicing optimal behavior and attitudes, why not a community?

Unlike many other American cities similar in size, our regional conversations appear almost completely void of the sometimes repetitive vernacular around 'harnessing young professionals' and 'attracting and retaining an emerging creative class.' While it is refreshing to be freed of this conforming nomenclature, in the past I've questioned if the region is positioned to foster a creative and entrepreneurial ethos; but the further I consider the vast talent that Charlotte has drawn to this region, the more optimistic I become.

In addition to scientists, professors, novelists, artists, actors, designers, and architects, a creative class is also comprised of professionals. Charlotte is abundant with players such as these in financial, legal, and health care services, and in business management. These individuals all engage in creative problem solving. Through a career shift, promotion, or perhaps our current economic landscape, these professionals are well-positioned to migrate into what Richard Florida[ii] calls the 'Super-Creative Core' and produce new creative output as their primary function.

Charlotte’s financial fallout could prove the best catalyst for creative and entrepreneurial growth, while we continue to benefit from the existing important industries that catapulted this region forward. Florida’s research contends, 'the mere fact that an organization has existed for a long time or is engaged in a long-standing business does not make it "Old Economy" and therefore obsolescent. Organizations of all sizes and types have distinct roles to plan in a creative economy.'

Our larger institutions will continue to attract great talent while some legacy talent– creative investment bankers and managers– leave their posts for an entrepreneurial role. Our creative potential is here, and our resourceful economic base has been laid. The inventive professional labor force, combined with the local artists, writers, chefs, designers, and musicians all play a vital role in Charlotte’s future. By collaborating, connecting, and fostering our creative class, we can ensure our human capital remains and that we individually and collectively benefit from their output.

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i  Levitin, Daniel, This is Your Brain on Music (New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 2006).
ii Florida, Richard, The Rise of the Creative Class (New York: Perseus Books Group, 2002).

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