Richardson: Reaching outWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s try something. Everybody get on your Facebook, or send a mass text message or email. Make a (gasp) phone call. Invite every creative person you know to Toledo.
Make actual arrangements. Offer to pick them up from airports, train and bus stations and to help them find places to stay. Offer your couch. Say the word “Welcome” when they arrive. Find out ahead of time, if you don’t already know, what they’re into.
Make plans to take them to something like that while they’re here. Try really hard not to take them to the mall. Use your imagination. Choose local businesses. When you take them for coffee, show them Black Kite at the corner of W. Delaware Ave. and Collingwood Boulevard. Point out how beautiful Scott High School is looking. Drive them down some tree-lined streets. Obviously, take them to the Toledo Museum of Art, but on the way, be sure to drive past two new works of public art on Monroe Street. Drive down Adams Street. Stop at the new Art Corner Toledo (ACT) mural at 13th Street. Get out and walk up to the wall. Take your friends’ picture in front of it. Show them the wheatpaste Smoking Cats on the front of the building.
Walk them to a nearby Yarnbomb. Suggest that they hug the Yarnbomb. Trust me. Make conversation with people walking by the wall who live or work in the neighborhood. Introduce and include your friend from out of town.
Next, take a walk around UpTown and ask them if they can feel that? Show them the artist-designed bike racks. When they comment about the empty buildings, suggest studio space and walls perfect for murals. Speak only in terms of potential. That’s artists’ favorite language anyway. Ask them again when you get to Manos Garden on Jackson Street and you’re surrounded by growth and color and community investment. Ask them how they feel. Casually throw the word “joy” around.
Continue down Adams Street in the car toward the river and head over to the Original Sub Shop & Deli for lunch. Over soup, ask your friends if the artists in their city have taken over the same way we have here. If they say yes, ask them for examples and exchange ideas. Actively acknowledge the national renaissance. Get excited about it! If they say no, start the push to convince them to move here. Encourage the Brain Gain. Tell them they will have the opportunity to be creative and to have an appreciative audience and instant community.
Get back in the car and drive down Broadway Street, where the murals are so colorful and vibrant you can’t take your eyes off them. Point out community gardens and how unbelievably tall the sunflowers are. You see what I’m getting at here.
Spark their awareness to how all of this makes them feel. Then, send them back to their respective cities where they can either see opportunities to invest themselves or start figuring out a way to move here and stoke whatever each of them may have burning.
I met a new friend last night who has just returned home to Toledo after a few months in Chicago, where he just wasn’t feelin’ the love, so to speak. I didn’t get his full story but what I did hear him say was that he felt a very definite pull to come back and that he could sense the creative revolution happening here.
I asked him what he does and he said, “I’m working at Savers.” “No, no,” I said, “What do you do?” “I’m a writer,” he said.
Of course he’s a writer.
Scan your internal “friends list.” How many of them are creative types who live in Toledo? How many of them are creative types who have moved away from Toledo? How many of them are creative types who are frustrated in a city that may not support their urge? Do they feel out of place in some suburb somewhere? Or are they in a town that is too big to have a real chance at opportunities? Think of that guy you went to high school with who was always writing or sketching. What’s he doing now? How many people do you know whose lives are begging for a change of scenery right about now? Think of one of those people and reach out to them and welcome them for a little trip to Toledo. Sell them the feeling. And welcome them home.