I knew I was fortunate to be chosen as one of 30 “creative connectors” to participate in the City of Roanoke’s Creative Communities Leadership Program (CCLP). But before attending a social last night at Kirk Avenue Music Hall to kick off the year-long project, I didn’t truly realize my good fortune.
I knew about many of the “creative connectors” chosen, but as a relative newcomer to Roanoke, I had not met any of them before last night. Several shared inspiring stories about how they came to live in Roanoke — be it by birth or by choice — and why they’ve chosen to make this their home.
Getting to know them all surely will end up being the greatest personal benefit to being a “connector.”
How I Became a Roanoker
I told my story of moving from Orlando to Blacksburg in 2005 to become director of web communications at Virginia Tech — and to return to my wife’s roots in Roanoke. In July 2008, I left Virginia Tech, we moved to our small farm in Montvale, and I become director of interactive media at Carilion Clinic.
Though I don’t live in Roanoke proper, I consider myself a Roanoker. And I told the group last night that I believe the CCLP is precisely the grass-roots effort the city needs to give it a much-needed creative jolt.
For myriad reasons, city officials don’t seem capable of leading the change Roanoke needs. They’ve proven this over and over again — from Victory Stadium to the amphitheater debate to the paralyzing indecision over the City Market Building. Perhaps with the CCLP, the city is turning a corner, relying on its creative class to lead the change.
I sure hope that’s the case, and that this is a genuine effort. I intend to establish roots here, so I have a vested interest in Roanoke becoming one of America’s most vibrant and innovative cities.
It’s time to remove the word “hidden” from that tired description of Roanoke as a “hidden gem.”
Lunch ‘n’ Listen
Earlier yesterday, a group of fellow Roanokers joined me for a long lunch at Table 50 to talk about the city’s present and future (and a little about its past). We had a free-flowing discussion about why they live here, how they perceive the city, how outsiders perceive us, what kind of job we’re doing attracting the creative class, how Roanoke rates as a “tolerant” city, and much more.
I’ll be writing up a report on our discussion and posting it to this blog soon. For now, I’ll share an inspiring insight from Brian Counihan, an artist and faculty member at Community High. Brian lived previously in New York and Chicago, large cities that can consume people. So one thing he said he loves about Roanoke is the fact that “one person can make a difference.”
Right on Brian. But the real power is when one person becomes hundreds. Or thousands.
That’s what I hope the CCLP inspires in Roanoke.
Time to Get to Work
The next step for the CCLP is a workshop March 30-31, also to be held at Kirk Avenue. Our goal during those two days is to generate four sustainable project ideas to help stimulate economic growth in the greater Roanoke area, which we have defined to include the New River Valley. We’ll spend the rest of the year fleshing out the projects.
This is going to be a lot of fun. And through this blog, I’ll be doing my best to open a window to the process and help ensure the transparency of the project.