Editor’s Note: Creating the creative economy

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Photo: John Robinson Photo: John Robinson

I had a funny note last week from a reader named Pete, on Facebook no less, who asked me to “keep the faith,” before telling me he liked my commas. 10-4, Pete, and amen. How do my semicolons look? Pete was reacting to the Read This First (he made sure to tell me he reads them last) I wrote after the Connecticut school shooting and, likely, to a tone that’s crept into my messages of late that’s, perhaps, overly dour.

Call it seasonal editorial disorder, postpartum election fatigue, or mild media self hatred. Doc, where are my meds? Right. There are times when you need to walk on the sunny side of the street. As Shane MacGowan said in “Streams of Whisky,” “There’s nothing ever gained by a wet thing called a tear. When the world is too dark, and I need the light inside of me, I’ll go into a bar and drink 15 pints of beer.”  This week’s feature on the local craft distillery movement introduced me to a bunch of characters who worked in finance, management, insurance, and engineering. Responsible gigs that earned good money. And then they decided to make whisky. Totally irresponsible and delightful.

Even more refreshing was the fact that all the people I spoke to had taken a skill set they developed in the service economy and then applied it to a whimsical calling with every intention of continuing to make money. If you Google “creative economy” you wind up with definitions of the creative industries, studies estimating their economic impact, and the impression that the theories espoused in John Howkins’ 2001 book of the same title may need an update. In those breathy times, the notion that ideas and the people who have them were the new economy’s greatest resource probably made sense. The MFAs and MBAs were still drinking together in L.A., New York, London, and Singapore, and the dream that we could all make a living on Etsy or Amazon held some weight.

After a dose of fiscal reality, it all seems a little, well, boozey, to think so highly of intellectual and artistic individuality. Howkins wrote about towns like ours, places where universities, investment capital, and creative synergies could drive growth. Keeping faith with that idea may involve making a simple commitment to making money by making things together. Tangible. Desirable. Even necessary. Whaddya think, Pete?

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