Just exactly how do cities encourage creativity as a key component for a financially healthy community? Creating spaces for and about music is an obvious ingredient. When trying to create a nexus for musical performances, supporting meaningful interaction between artists and fans is a key ingredient. Is this harder or easier to create in a virtual or face to face environment? A review of some physical venues–big and small–will help reveal what face to face venues may have in common, and whether there are any lessons for virtual venues.
A great place to start is Seattle’s phenomenal EMP (Experience Music Project) which opened in 2000. This place is all about popular music—rock, jazz, soul, gospel, country and even the blues. It’s a bit like a music museum too, with amazing artifacts from the earliest electric guitars, as well as chronicling Seattle’s longstanding and vast rock tradition including Jimi Hendrix, Heart, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the EMP is visually spectacular inside and out, and feels more like a massive piece of art that pops against the Seattle skyline. But the best part of the experience, is the interactivity!
Greeting visitors is a vast sculpture made from hundreds of guitars and other instruments, entitled “Roots and Branches,” created by the artist Trimpin. The piece is visually stunning, soaring above the crowds up to the vast ceiling. What’s even more incredible is the sculpture can be played!
Moving through the rest of the exhibits, visitors are treated to recorded interviews and performances, and can even take their turn with a microphone in the studio. One visit isn’t enough to appreciate all the EMP has to offer, but there is no doubt that all of the exhibits bring visitors closer to music and musicians.
Millions have visited the EMP since it opened adding upwards of $650M to date to the local economy. What better way to demonstrate Richard Florida’s argument that fostering the creative class broadens economic opportunity across the community.
While the EMP is fantastic, creativity can happen in far more modest circumstances. We’ll continue our tour of creative spaces in our next post.
Teddi Davis is eMarketer; Owner, The Exchange Tavern; and Editor, Free Play Virtually Live.
EMP images courtesy Experience Music Project