Thirty-one years ago, my grandfather and I watched MTV together when the station launched a channel dedicated to music videos. I loved seeing my rock heroes visually express the soundtrack to my adolescence. My grandad, originally from a hardscrabble life in the Appalachian mountains where they lived “off the grid” not because they were cool but because they had to, liked watching the pretty girls. I’d turn up the TV loud to get the full experience. That seemed fine with Papa. He didn’t like wearing his hearing aids anyway.
Recently youth, retiree, rural and high-tech cultures merged again via the arts in Chatham County.
MTV IGGY, processor chip maker Intel, and laptop makers Lenovo (a former IBM company) are collaborating to produce The Music Experiment. Young people are encouraged to tweet messages with certain hashtags making them eligible to attend a free concert. A concert in New York City launched the series. Future concerts are planned for Los Angeles, and Portland. Last week the concert that drew 500+ young people to the Barn in Chatham’s Fearrington Village, known for its 5 Star/5 Diamond Inn, Euro-spa, trunk shows and mixed use development populated by refined older folks, featured the rising, genre-bending, musical artist Santigold.
The producers flew in, and rented cars to drive to Fearrington where they secured lodging, and hired security, and rented the barn, decor, furniture, lighting and props. To help illustrate the theme of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” they also rented handmade masks and more props from the ground-breaking artists at Paperhand Puppet Intervention. The production team bought food and gas and promoted Fearrington (incorrectly noted as being in Chapel Hill) all along the way. The money they spent added to the tax coffers of Chatham County and our state.
This snapshot perfectly illustrates the creative economy that develops and sustains nearly 300,000 jobs in NC or 5.54% of total state employment and brings in revenue totaling $41.4 billion to the state, or 5.86% of the state’s total production, per the NCArts Council. The arts provide tax revenue, use goods and services, and create jobs.
Despite his modest start, Papa would have appreciated that.
The first thing he did when he walked out of the mountains of Virginia in shoes he’d hand stitched from cardboard was go to the local business school for typing classes. Papa said the most valuable skill he’d ever learned was to type. He went on to become an executive with Southern Railway and the vice mayor of our southern city so I suppose he knew what he was talking about. Funny, until now, I never thought of Papa as a lynchpin between old and new ways. But he was. Now when I e-mail, blog, text or tweet, I’ll remember that IBM Selectric Typewriter Papa gave us as our keys to a big world.
~Lesley L. Landis