Economic development in Alpharetta apparently is thriving. You can read more about that here. I’m glad to hear it since that means jobs. I must say though, that I had a hollow feeling after reading this piece because it gave no mention of cultural arts in Alpharetta. I guess you could say this isn't one of our defining characteristics.
And what are the cultural arts? The cultural arts are our creative endeavors to express and explain life’s wonders, joys, sadness, anger, notable moments, history, and surroundings through the medium of voice, song, word, brushstroke, hands, bow, key, and creative process and issues forth with or without monetary reward. In other words, you can’t buy, package or manufacture the cultural arts. The cultural arts just are, be they simple, sophisticated, rehearsed or improvisational.
Notwithstanding the efforts of local cultural arts organizations, various city sponsored special events and the fact that Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre is in our midst, nevertheless, I wouldn’t say our cultural arts life is thriving. I do think local government and businesses give a nod to cultural artsy sorts of things, but they are all too often contrived and seem to be more about bringing customers into local businesses.
There is a way we can better foster the cultural arts and it is very simple. In a word, it is to provide venue. When I was running the local nonprofit Alpharetta Arboretum, an organization that promotes the cultural art of gardening, one of the most difficult things I faced each year was finding venue for meetings and classes. Fact is, grassroots organizations, struggling artists and musicians, they share this in common – they are generally poor and unable to rent out large spaces, galleries, meeting rooms or performance arenas.
Indeed, in order to thrive, the cultural arts must have as a home base the proverbial town square, a community place that can be accessed without profit motive – a community room, a hallway for art, a place in the park, an auditorium. Whether this place is provided by local government, local business, or a local individual, this place is provided whether it stimulates the economy or not and for a low fee or no fee.
We have to throw aside profit motives and just allow culture to happen – benevolently and without strings. We have to allow it to happen because of how it feeds the soul and the heart – something that thriving economic development is powerless to do.