I and others are constantly on the prowl for ideas that could help pull our community’s economy out of the pit left by the de-industrialization of America. Modern realities have left so many small towns with business districts that closely resemble ghost towns. If this is to be reversed a new paradigm has to be considered. The old mom & pop stores of the past are not coming back.
Across the nation there are communities who have taken the time and effort to reinvent themselves. To carve out a niche of uniqueness that makes others want to come for a visit or even take up residence. One example is Waynesville, OH, a community that has become the antique capital of Southern Ohio, and beyond. The town’s business district is vibrant and alive. Those who come looking for treasure also need to be fed and entertained. You’d be hard pressed to find a storefront not occupied by an antique shop, boutique, health food store, restaurant, or other enterprise.
My town, Greenfield, OH, recently held a community Christmas program. At the end of the performance many people commented on the depth of musical talent we have. And it is true, Greenfield has always had a deep pool of artistic talent. It is the birthplace of Ralph Price who composed many popular marches back in the early 1900s and who’s band was famous far and wide. Country music legend, Johnny Paycheck, is also a native son as are the Adams brothers who backed up several country stars including Buck Owens, Paycheck, and George Jones. Brad Martin is making a name for himself in country music. We have had any number of people with talent in the performing arts to go on and establish successful careers in aspects of the entertainment business.
The same holds true with visual arts. Our local McClain High School has for decades operated a highly successful arts program, both in the performing and visual areas. It has had any number of graduates go on to successful careers as designers, graphic artist, cartoonists, fine artists, and art teachers. Chris Beatty went straight out of art college into a career with the Disney organization and worked on any number of their animated films and theme park creations.
In thinking about what makes our town unique one answer is our depth of artistic talent. So, if Waynesville can make itself into the center of antiques why can’t Greenfield turn itself into a major art center. It happened with Marfa, TX, it happened with Provincetown, MA, why not Greenfield. Why can’t our storefronts be turned into art supply stores, galleries, studios, performance venues, a recording studio, and all the coffee shops, book stores, and restaurants that would be needed to support these activities? I certainly think it is something worth a hard consideration.
For some other ideas on revitalizing a community or neighborhoods take a look at the 10 examples provided at this LINK.