Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arts Advocacy Day

I was at Arts Advocacy Day at the RI State House yesterday. This annual event organized by RI Citizens for the Arts is important every year, but especially important this year. Governor Carcieri has proposed drastic and disproportionate cuts to RI's state arts council budget. You can read more about how drastic the cuts are and more importantly, how to take action at RI Citizens for the Arts' website.

There were a several great speakers yesterday but John Tabor Jacobson particularly struck me with his passion and heart.

A RISD grad who has stayed in Rhode Island, JJ has made incredible contributions here. We are especially grateful for his work as an artist mentor at New Urban Arts and all of the volunteer work and support he has provided us since. He's now a leader in green building as the owner of JTJ Investments.

Here is a copy of his speech. Enjoy and thank you JJ!

For as long as I can remember I have considered my self a creative person and in 1989 moved to Rhode Island to pursue my interests in the arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. I fell in love with Rhode Island and its vibrant cultural scene and never left. Over the last 20 years as a small businessman and entrepreneur I have participated in the creative community in Rhode Island by providing goods and services, volunteering in the community and by being a consumer of local culture. Most recently my area of expertise is energy use in the built environment, which I apply to real estate development, consulting and teaching. My passion is striving to create Net Zero buildings, which by definition create as much energy as they use over the course of a year. My development company focuses on providing sustainable space needs to artists, small business, entrepreneurs and nonprofits in the West Side Arts district. In many ways I feel as though I have come full circle as after 20 years I have returned to RISD to teach part time and share the knowledge that I have accrued over the years. It is an honor.

The non-profit community in Rhode Island has been a great source of joy for me. Volunteering at New Urban Arts, The Steel Yard, Community Works RI, The Green Jobs Committee for Workforce Development and The Green Economy Roundtable put on by the RIEDC has enriched my life through community service, and it has also led to countless business and social networking opportunities. No state in America has the ability to network like Rhode Island. It is a case where our size is our greatest asset.

I am also a consumer of local culture and have watched with much fascination as ideas that were born here have spread over the world. From bands like Six Finger Satellite and Combustible Edison in the early 90’s to the noise bands of Olneyville like Lighting Bolt and Force Field who ended up in the Whitney Biennial not to mention current success stories Deer Tick and The Low Anthem who appeared recently on the David Letterman Show. From Shep Fairey with his unstoppable Andre The Giant campaign, which started right here in Atlantic Mills, to native sons The Farelly Brothers whose movies frequently feature Rhode Island. From the amazing Ryan Lesser who started out with a video game called Frequency that turned into Guitar Hero and later Rock Band to watching Craftland turn into a national leader in the D.I.Y crafts movement. From model makers at Hasbro designing the latest Star Wars toys to master boat builders in Bristol Rhode pushing the envelope in marine technology. From leaders like Jack Templin in IT community reshaping our digital world to Rhode Island artisan food producers and local farmers rethinking how we eat. The list goes on and on. The creative community is at the heart of what makes Rhode Island a great place to live.

Creativity is associated with fine art and literature but it is also an essential part of innovation and invention and is important to such professions as business, economics, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, advertising, mathematics, music, science, engineering and teaching. Currently we are witnessing an age were walls between these professions are breaking down and cross collaboration, creativity and design are enabling us to look at things differently, innovate and improve existing paradigms. Annual conferences held here in Rhode Island like The Business Innovation Factory and A Better World By Design are highlighting and facilitating such conversations.

Where one might see failure the creative mind can see opportunity.

Creative ideas are often generated when one discards preconceived assumptions and attempts a new approach or method that might seem to others unthinkable. With as broke as many Americans feel our system is, we desperately need new ideas, approaches and methods. Make no mistake small businesses and entrepreneurs fueled by the spirit of creativity and innovation are going to lead us out of our current economic mess. Rhode Island government can choose to embrace this and work to create a healthy environment within which this culture can thrive or it can ignore a historic opportunity to reinvent itself and position Rhode Island to be a leader in the knowledge and creative economy in the 21s century.


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