I enjoy hanging out in the Midtown District. I’ve seen tremendous revitalization in this neighborhood that I wouldn’t think of walking around in 10 years ago because it was too seedy. (And I moved to Reno from Detroit!) Now, I feel as if I could be sitting in any hip-city neighborhood when I dine in one of the cafés or restaurants.
First, there was Süp. I remember its original location with the cramped seating. When I wanted a bowl of their yummy tortilla soup (with that perfect bite-size cookie), I knew I had to arrive early before the crowd snaked to the door. Luckily, it was one of the few places that encouraged sharing your table, a normal occurrence in Europe but not really the American way. They finally outgrew that space and moved north one block. It’s got the same great menu and same friendly staff. But it has something else I especially appreciate – more wall space for local art.
When I decided to cut off my locks, someone suggested a hairdresser who owned a salon in Midtown. I love Jessy’s bubbly personality, professionalism and skill, but I also enjoy glancing around at all the local art in Crimson Hair Art Studio.
These businesses and a handful of others in Midtown that display and sell local art are the true investors in their community’s art and culture. They’re not only neighborhood revitalizers, they’re cultural entrepreneurs.
When I walk around the Midtown District, I can’t help but wonder why no one has opened an art gallery.
I recently read a policy brief published by Ann Markusen, professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the Institute’s Project on Regional and Industrial Economics in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her research examines occupational approaches to regional development and on artists, arts organizations, cultural industries, and cultural activity as regional economic and quality-of-life stimulants. In her brief, titled “How Cities Can Nurture Cultural Entrepreneurship,” she encouraged city leaders not to copy other city’s strategies but to focus on what is distinctive about your city.
“The twenty-first century will belong to the distinctive city, and entrepreneurial artists and designers are key to that future,” Markusen wrote.
So I wonder — why aren’t more businesses in Midtown collaborating with local artists. Yes, there are lovely murals on some business walls and the Midtown District corrals artists for the Sixth Annual Midtown Art Walk, which is on Thursday. But that’s one evening in July.
And now Good Luck Macbeth Theatre Company, which is located in the heart of Midtown, announced Chad Sweet, its Producing Artistic Director, is leaving and the theater company is questioning in which direction they should go.
Markusen said “artists bring income into the city, improve the performance of area businesses and creative industries, and directly create new businesses and jobs.” The Midtown District should be Reno’s true example of how to nurture cultural entrepreneurship. Let’s think about how to make that happen year round when we’re out roaming the streets Thursday night on the annual art walk.