Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CCS2: The Creative Opening Ceremonies

As with any multi-day event, the opening ceremonies are critical for clearing away the clutter of the outside world from the minds of attendees and shifting everyone's focus to the matter-at-hand. Which was especially important for me and this Creative Cities Summit, on account of my cynical view of the whole creative economy thing (to review: efforts to market the creative economy exist to prop up the creative economy).

I got there when our very own Governatrix Jennifer Granholm was speaking. You have to hand it to her, she really is enthused about the whole Cool Cities thing. I'm going to leave discussions of policy out of this (since I have done exactly zero research on it) but she's a great motivator on this stuff. And really, in a town where leadership is less than visionary it's nice to hear an elected official talk about things like, I dunno, the future. I do wish she'd worn an outfit that was a little more visionary, however. That ill-fitting red jacket did no one any favors.

Now I may be messing up the order but the next thing I remember was being surrounded by the Martin Luther King High School Marching band. I approved of this mucho. If it's good enough for China's Olympics then it is good enough for the Detroit Creative Cities Summit. Those kids are so effin cute, and of course anything involving sequins and choreography has got me from the word go.

Karen Gagnon, one of the CCS2 co-producers spoke next, and I think there were two significant things in her talk. First was the entreaty to try and leave this conference with one concrete thing you can do. This was music to the ears of anyone (me) who thinks this whole creative class thing has devolved into a lot of talk.

Secondly - and more tellingly - was the ending of her brief speech where she quoted the movie Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! So live! Live! Live!" While this line makes me wince every time I watch that movie, it is certainly an appropriate line with which to end a speech to a creative group, and Karen delivered it with the requisite gusto. What gave me pause was the wave of unrecognition that swept over the audience as she said it. The line fell flat, with only a few chuckles, and I could not help but think the majority of these people had no clue what she was talking about. Not a good sign.

Even though I was an English major in college I don't alway have an enjoyable time with poetry, particularly the spoken variety. So I was a little apprehensive with the next speaker, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, the Poet Laureat of the City of Toronto. It was a relief, then, when it was announced he would not be reading poetry but rather speaking poetically. It was actually great, and he was the first person (of many, it turns out) to speak of the real individual contributions people make in the journey toward a creative world. It was heartening, and my first real indication that we were going to get some great outside perspectives at this conference.

He concluded, and the crowd prepared for the shift to the opening keynote address. Creative attendees, while short of being worked into a frenzy, are feeling very summity at this point it seems, so kudos to the conference for getting the ball rolling with inspiration, brevity, and a little local flair.

And now a few non-sequitur notes that really don't fit anyplace else:

A production note: the big screens on either side showing the speaker are great, especially for someone who broke his glasses, but shooting non-actors wearing no makeup from a slightly elevated angle in hi-def might not be the best way to go. Lots of foreheads and bottom front teeth on display. And there were Brits on display, so think about that.

A practical note: the conference rooms at the Ren Cen have no wi-fi. WTF???

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