Memphis Music Magnet

Community L.I.F.T. (Memphis Music Magnet & Memphis Symphony Orchestra)

Funding Received: 2012
Memphis, TN
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
February 21, 2013

ArtPlace spoke with Eric Robertson, President of Community LIFT, about the recent ArtPlace Creative Placemaking Summit in Miami.

ArtPlace:  Where does this movement go next? 

Eric:  You’re right, this is a movement.  One of the clear takeaways from the Summit was that ArtPlace and its grant recipients are pioneers of this new strategy to use art as the catalyst for revitalizing a place, creating vibrancy and possibly transforming a neighborhood or community.  For me, the obvious place this movement goes next is formalizing itself with clear principals, established structures, and best practices that can be taught to others.  Rutgers has established a certification program in Business District Management because those first practitioners of downtown redevelopment across the world saw a need as they, too, were pioneering new strategies to revitalize downtowns. The International Economic Development Council offers certification in economic development so those in the field can become Certified Economic Developers trained on the best practices, strategies, structures, instruments and principals.

ArtPlace:  What ideas did you gain or lessons did you learn that you plan to apply to your initiative?

Eric:  The Summit was inspiring for a number of lessons learned.  The first, I got it, that this really is a new movement around unique approaches to improving some of the most challenged communities.  So recording our work and being more data conscious have become even more important to our organization.  Second, don’t let those in the other fields such as economic or community development diminish the value of your work as they may not readily see the correlation and benefit.  Third, fake it until you make it - a quote from Chuck Pagano, “live in your vision, not your circumstances.” For many of us who are working on these projects, that quote captures and focuses us on where we are and headed simultaneously.

ArtPlace: What did you share about your initiative that was surprising to you or to other participants?

Eric:  One of the things that I shared that was surprising to us and other participants was the importance of relationship building within local government agencies.  Often we think of reaching out to arts groups or community stakeholders, basically the low hanging fruit.  We had a situation that required us to seek a policy exception from the Board of Directors of the local utility company.  Because we had engaged the utilities Board of Directors months prior we were able to receive that exception that allowed our first show with legends Booker T. and William Bell to perform in the neighborhood that birthed their music careers – Soulsville, USA.