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.