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Creative Incubator Initiative hosts first Catalyst Social at 20 N. Jefferson

On Wednesday night, August 6, the Creative Incubator Initiative hosted the first catalyst social event since the DaytonCreate Project began back in March. The event was held at 20 N. Jefferson Street where the Creative Incubator Initiative has partnered with building owner Downtown Dayton Holdings LLC to provide temporary space for street level arts and music events.

The Creative Incubator team dressed up the space in hurry-up fashion, erecting tables out of sawhorses and old doors, borrowing potted flowers from backyards, throwing beer, wine and sodas into a cooler, and serving sandwiches and vegetable trays from the Dugout Deli for refreshments and snacks.

About thirty catalysts, task force members and guests were on hand to see the space in its raw state and to enjoy a bit of conversation with other catalysts. Guests were also presented with a brief YouTube video that documented a very successful and established community third place called AS220 operating in Providence, Rhode Island. This video, although highly representative of what could happen at 20 N. Jefferson, was intended more to show the process by which a community space can evolve over time, and what impact a project like this can have on the cultural revitalization of a city.

Feedback from the event was very positive, and people were excited about seeing the space and beginning to visualize the kind of community activities that could occur there. However, an important question came up more than once: How does a project like opening an arts based community third place improve the economic prosperity of the Dayton Region?

Our committee answered this very important question by explaining the process this way:

According to Richard Florida’s philosophy, street level culture is an important draw to the creative class. Young creatives are flocking to cities like Portland, Oregon and the like because there is a street level culture occurring there that is enormously attractive to them. In fact, many of these young people are going to Portland without definitive job possibilities (remember San Francisco in the 60s?) simply because of this exciting, idealistic, bohemian culture.

As just one link in the chain of things that draws and retains creative talent, this is the primary focus of the Creative Incubator Initiative. Our efforts speak to at least three of the T’s that Florida emphasizes:

  1. Tolerance: If we can create a downtown that is tolerant of artistic, diverse, youth culture, we will be providing the “fun” that creatives demand from their local environment.
  2. Territorial Assets: If we can revive the popularity of enjoying authentic territorial assets (i.e. cool downtown buildings, raw spaces, public squares, old architecture, etc.) we will attract a smarter more sophisticated populace to the downtown area.
  3. Talent: If we can provide a location where tolerance meets cool territorial assets, we will create a “scene” where smart, creative talent hangs out, converges, melds and begins the cycle of creativity that is necessary to retain such talent.

So, how does a space like 20 N. Jefferson begin this process? Well, it draws the attention of the high bohemians first, by giving them a physical space to perform and interact. Through the support of our initiative, we also provide them with a broader audience and stronger logistical support then they would have operating by themselves. For example, DaytonCreate can help ensure that LadyFest is recognized by a broader audience because of our involvement, as will many other events and activities that could go on there.

How does a space like 20 N. Jefferson happen without an infusion of big funding? It happens slowly and sequentially. You start by generating energy in a raw space the way we are starting to draw energy to 20 N. Jefferson. You hold some events, you get some enthusiasm and buy-in. You get some enthusiasm and buy-in, you hold some more events, and you get more energy, enthusiasm and buy-in. You get enough energy and buy-in, and you get people who want to get involved as entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurship breeds economic prosperity faster and better than any foundation or endowment ever could.

The entire Creative Incubator committee believes strongly in the successful outcome (with metrics and all) of this initiative because it speaks directly to so many of the things that young creatives are seeking in life. If downtown Dayton could become a playground for the creative class, the creative class– with all its idealistic youth, energy, vitality, intelligence and humor– would come out to play. And where the creative class is drawn to play, they’re also drawn to work, and they tend to make and spend a fair amount of money.

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