Saturday, November 25, 2006

Many Natchezians Have Vision

Many Natchezians have a vision for a better Natchez. Unfortunately, none of them are Mayor or Alderman.

I was reminded of this as I went on the tour of artists' studios today. This tour was organized by a visionary brought to us courtesy of Katrina. It was the brainchild of Jerry Dixon, who has moved here after losing everything in Bay St Louis. He had an art gallery there and had organized these tours regularly. He put the Natchez tour together very quickly, but it was a huge success. Who knew Natchez had so many incredible artists?

Art can be a big economic boost for a community, and it has no down side. Jerry saw this in Bay St Louis, and he also knew the value of a tour. It not only helped local artists, but it also brought large crowds into the community. This tour will grow and bring money into Natchez. Thank you, Jerry!

Another visionary person with a knowledge and appreciation of the economic benefits of art is Hedy Boelte. She is the person who brought together like minded people to discuss establishing a school of art in Natchez. If you have any doubts about the economic value of such a venture, just see what it has done for Savannah. The school has a $280 million annual economic impact!

The multitalented Esther Carpenter has moved back to Natchez to her family home, the Elms. She was a highly acclaimed chef and restauranteur in New Orleans and then Los Angeles for years and then started a hugely successful decorative arts company. Using all those talents, she will create a beautiful site at the Elms and plans to use it, not only for her home and studio, but also as a bed and breakfast plus an event venue. She has a vision, and she'll fulfill it.

Another Katrina benefit for Natchez is the arrival of nationally recognized artist Rolland Golden. He has purchased a Natchez house that he is converting into a home and studio. Just having an artist of his renown and ability living here will attract many to this city. He is currently working on a series of paintings based on the aftermath of Katrina for a one man show at the New Orleans Museum of Art next year.

All day long I heard people discuss their vision for art in Natchez. It was so uplifting. Art has rescued and revived many a town, and I so hope Natchez will be next. Make no mistake about it - art is big time economic development.

But art is only part of the vision Natchezians have for our city. If only our city government would work with our citizens towards developing an exciting, developing, sustaining community. (See Democrat editorial.) But no, only they know best. Citizen input is never solicited and never listened too. If we're not careful, our current "leaders" will drive the visionaries away.

Casinos: Economic development for the vision impaired.


Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to puke.

Observer said...

I went on the tour yesterday and was very impressed. After clicking onto your link to the Decatur, AL newspaper article about SCAD, a big lightbulb came on! If Decatur is taking this step to copy Savannah, how much better suited Natchez is for this very thing. Just look at the vacant downtown buildings, available for class rooms. How about the Ritz Theatre for performing arts. I know the old First Baptist Church has almost fallen apart, but what a great center for an art school it would be. Right in the middle of downtown and across from beautiful Memorial Park. The main problem is parking, and surely our innovative leaders can figure this out. Talk about economic development. Just read that link and see for yourselves. Do you think any elected officials read this blog? Hope so.

Wants real progress said...

Dear Puker. What really ought to sicken you is the thought of another casino right downtown!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Vision - what about the Trust for Public Land. Is there any possibility for something coming of this concept? Any word from that man who came here to check us out?

natchezblues said...

The artist studio tour was a huge success and the artist who have moved here want to see Natchez become an artist community. Would love to see the First Baptist church saved and/or used for art school. I met a girl who graduated from the art school in Brookhaven for 11th & 12th graders. Said it's competitive and their tuition is paid for as well as room & board by I assume the State Arts Council, or an Endowment for the Arts.
Oxford, Miss is booming, of course they have Ole Miss and they have very little industry. The mayor is also the owner of the famous Square Books and promotes the arts, works to preserve the quaintness of Oxford and accommodates this building boom at the same time.
The public came out on Sat. to support the arts in Natchez. That was very evident and every race and socio-economic level, in Natchez, was represented. It got people out of their homes and many went on to shop downtown and to eat/drink in our restaurants. The people have spoken, are speaking--it's time for our leaders to start listening.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna pewk too.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we have more casino's, an art college AND other things that bring jobs and value to the economy?

I wouldn't think anyone would be against an Art School downtown. But then again yes they would, after all this is Natchez.

Anonymous said...

This whole discussion is depressing. Natchez does not need an arts oriented industry or another casino. This area needs salaried jobs with benefits so that working class people can once more have a shot at the American Dream. Neither of the ideas proposed so far will achieve this. Natchez may as well continue to take great pride in its past because it has no future. The only good idea in recent years has been to attract retirees to Natchez. Natchez is not a place to live, it is a place to come die.

Anonymous said...

I just pewked too.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Natchez become economically the most progressive city in America by instituting a Kelsonian modeled economy. (
First we will have to storm the bastions of municipal government, flog our elected miscreants in public, then run them out of town on a rail. Now that's a fine American tradition!

Anonymous said...

What makes you think "working class" people can't work in the arts, appreciate art, find jobs in art related businesses or be artists themselves? I call myself one of this class, and I think it would be a great opportunity. Do you think we're so unsophisticated we can't understand the incredible benefits a school like this would bring to the entire ommunity?

And, by the way,
if you "pewkers and "pukers" can't think of anything more constructive to do, go on down to your beloved gambling boat and do it off the bow (after you've lost all your money).

natchezblues said...

Oh, my gosh, no wonder so many give up! With an art school or you have people moving here to attend. The students want places to eat, drink, shop, so small businesses will open. Professors come, need places to live and may have small children who attend our schools. Parents come to visit, need places to stay, eat, shop, etc. Their friends, family discover Natchez. Art festivals grow here as a result, huge crowds come to attend artist tours/festivals, many discover Natchez for the first time, decide it's a wonderful place to live. Artist move here that have nothing to do with the art school, and they need places to live, eat, drink and be merry and on and on. Businesses are created, more jobs are available--and ones with benefits, I'm sure. It is a trickle down effect and ALL benefit. Yes, maybe another casino comes, it's not the end of the world--we can still strive for our vision!

Anonymous said...

Arts are great but students don't have much money. Typically a flourishing art community is found within an area much greater than itself. It takes "non arts" to support and demand the arts. Business and society are key.

Chesney Doyle said...

Hi Everybody,

I believe Natchez Blues is correct.

My husband and I live outside of Savannah (as well as Atlanta and Natchez) and we have watched the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) TRANSFORM Savannah's economy. Because of SCAD, every aspect of business in Savannah is now flourishing.

It takes “People” to vitalize a city. And anything we do to make our city more "liveable" will attract people.

What could be more vitalizing than YOUNG PEOPLE and a first rate educational institution?

Remember, students in a private school have parents who can afford the tuition. Oftentimes, they also have their parents' credit cards. So, they do have money to spend, as do the professiors and the administrators associated with an educational industry. They may not be dining at the Castle every night, but they'll be spending money!

This is not an "art for art’s sake” idea. This is about “jobs, jobs and more jobs."

Remember, we’re not just dreaming here. SAVANNAH HAS DONE IT!

We are talking about an "urban" campus here, with facilities spread throughout the downtown area and beyond.

-SCAD brought in people to Savannah: administrators, professors and students
-SCAD provided jobs - at all levels - for local people - secretaries, managers, groundskeepers, technicians, etc.
-They renovated downtown buildings for facilities
-Administrators, professors and students need housing....thus downtown lofts and more throughout the city.
-Real estate is now booming and with it, all the financial services industries
-Students with parents’ credit cards need to shop: -The Gap, Banana Republic, Starbucks. You name it, Savannah’s got it. Downtown, not out in a mall.
-All these new people need places to eat: Great Restaurants dot the city
-SCAD renovated the old Lucas Theater (like our Ritz) downtown as a performing arts center. It has won awards. It is magnificent.
-The SCAD library is a new modern building DOWNTOWN – it is glass and it is incredible. People use it!
-SCAD has meant Jobs, jobs and more jobs.

Check out SCAD's website and you will be impressed. It's hard to imagine that Natchez could do something like this...but we can!

An art school is not an overnight solution, nor is it THE solution. But, it can be part of the solution. Even with a college, we still need a diversified economic development plan.

However, consider this: Improving our overall educational infrastructure in Natchez will help us attract top notch traditional industries. Successful companies with successful managers need solid educational options for their children, K-12 and advanced studies as well. Companies also need to be assured that there is a motivated pool of potential workers, at all levels. If Natchez became know for its commitment to education, this would be a magnet for companies looking to locate new facilities.

This link notes some basic SCAD growth factors:

• In 1979, SCAD started with 71 students. By 1995, SCAD had 2,200 students. Today, there are more than 7,400 students.

• The number of degree programs offered has increased from eight in 1979 to 78 in 2005.

• The number of faculty has increased from seven in 1979 to 422 in 2005.

• The number of staff has increased from four in 1979 to 921 in 2005. Today, the college employs a total of 1,343 faculty and staff.

• In 2003, SCAD’s economic impact on the state of Georgia was $243 million, according to the Georgia Foundation for Independent Colleges Inc.

Please check out the SCAD site. Also, consider the curriculum that a Natchez college might offer in addition to the basic liberal arts studies. Just to name a few off the top of my head: film, television and video arts; music, audio engineering and sound design; museum studies; master craftsmanship courses for contractors who want to be "certified" in historic preservation techniques; vocational craft studies (bricklaying, plasterwork, etc.); journalism and creative writing; graphic design; arts management studies; and on and on and on.

Send you good ideas about curriculum to the blog and I will gather them up into a single document and pass them on to others who trying to make something happen in the arts in Natchez.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Doyle, thank you for that wonderful contribution. I, too, have felt that education is the key to progress for our city. I encounter so many young people in this area who don't have any goals for furthering their education beyond a high-school diploma. As I read the curriculum list I thought of those young people who are economically deprived in our community. I desparately want to inspire them, help them find a way to develop skills which will enable them to work outside the usual minimum-wage labor jobs. When our city leaders decide to endorse an educationally focused economic agenda our young people will have the accessibility and inspiration to succeed.

Anonymous said...

i'm amazed that anyone living in Natchez would voice such uneducated and negative comments about the possibilities of trying to build the arts on any level here in Natchez. what are you thinking!