Organizers recently hosted an event asking Chattanoogans to share their thoughts on the direction the city should take in planning for the next 40 years. It's a good idea considering how well things have turned out since the similarly held Vision 2000 process done in the mid-'80s.
Dreaming big and planning are the right approaches, and it will be fun to see how things turn out over the coming decades. At the top of the list should be convincing locals that not every event has to be free to get in.
I don't know if other communities have as many free or almost free events as we do, but we sure do like them. They are great, but have they devalued things like music and art?
I'm more interested in what happens in the next couple of years than the next 40, however, particularly regarding the city's arts and culture communities. There is little doubt that those areas have changed, and most of that change is positive and exciting.
You can see the results especially along the North Shore and on the Southside.
It sounds conspiratorial, but in the past there really were just a few people or groups that did most of the bigger event planning. It always seemed to be the same folks involved. That's not so anymore, as there are so many things going on nearly every week, it's hard to keep up. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had 22 festivals scheduled in the area in one weekend, for example.
Money is always an issue for nonprofits in general and arts organizations in particular, and we've written several stories lately detailing the current financial state of many of our largest such groups.
Overlooked in the discussion is that in a lot of cases the same dollars are being chased by the many groups looking to make us an "outdoor city" and a "gig city."
My prediction is that we will see things shake out in the coming months and years and that we might even lose a few things that we've grown accustomed to having around. I have no idea which ones in particular, and I'm in no way wishing anything to go away.
It's natural selection at work, and we will find out if we are big enough to be an arts city, a gig city and an outdoor city. I think at some point, also, we, and I include myself, are going to have to start paying for some of the great events we have.
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...
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