The city of Worcester (and other places, I'm sure) throw around the phrase "the creative economy" a lot. It's not something I have any issue with, but you have to understand that when they use terms like that, they're discussing how the arts function within the city's economy. That's fine – indeed, it's their job – but as someone who A.) writes professionally about the arts in Worcester; B.) is a publishing and performing writer of poetry and fiction; and C.) occasionally produces shows, it occurs to me that "the creative economy" can in no way be my primary concern. It's a concern from the perspective of my being an engaged citizen and voter, and as someone who's interested in the arts in general, but I can't really let it be an overly large factor in my decision-making. I can't let it affect what I write about or what art I create or what shows I put on, because if I do, I risk compromising my own artistic and critical instincts in favor of something else. That something else has it its place, certainly, but it's not what I do.
What I am concerned about, however, is less the creative economy of the city than I am the economy of the city's artistic community. That's not just a financial economy ... it's also an ecosystem of inspiration and ideas. I am interested in Worcester being an environment that can develop and nurture new artistic voices across genres, can develop an audience for those and more-developed voices here (call it a domestic market, if you will), and developing an audience for those voices outside the city (an export market, I suppose). I am interested in an environment where the city's artists push and inspire each other, and where they're exposed to and interact with enough outside voices that their work is fed with enough new ideas and perspectives to stay inspired and not succumb to complacency. An insular artistic economy goes stale, and eventually brings the whole thing crashing to the ground.
Of course, a healthy artistic economy benefits the city's creative economy as a whole. If an audience is grown for local artists, it benefits the venues that supports those artistic ventures, the restaurants and bars and what have you that the audience patronizes. That's important, but it's not an artist or a critic's main concern. It is a promoter's concern, to a degree, but because of the nature of my first two roles, I tend to put on shows which I don't really profit from. My hope in that process – especially when doing shows such as Vintage or Megaslam – has been for artists to find inspiration from each other and for their own individual audiences to grow by being exposed to each other's following. Has it worked? Eh, who knows? I'll have to let other people figure that one out.
My current project is the Midnight Mystery Cabaret, which will be coming to Nick's in late March. I'll have more details shortly, but it's sort of an extension of my earlier shows, where my aim is to mix artists from disparate corners of the Worcester community, in addition to exposing the city to artists from outside that I feel it needs to experience, that I think it will find inspiring. As with Megaslam and Vintage, it's my hope to stir a conversation about the arts that extends well past the event itself. It's my hope that when you put two artists who might not normally encounter each other on the same stage, that something will spark, and that spark will inspire ... something. There's always a level where, when I do these things, I'm feeling around in the dark, and that's a little terrifying. But has it been worth it so far? Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. But it only works if I don't overly concern myself with how it fits into the creative economy or what have you. It only works if I try to put forward brilliance for its own sake. I have to trust that that's enough.