In any city that has a vibrant art scene, there are many players that need to invest in it. Obviously, this starts with the artists themselves, but one group that often gets overlooked is the business community, and the organizations that use them as a resource.
In any city that has a vibrant art scene, there are many players that need to invest in it. Obviously, this starts with the artists themselves, but one group that often gets overlooked is the business community, and the organizations that use them as a resource. When these groups see value in helping fund worthwhile artistic projects and creating new opportunities for creative folks, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Chrystal Neal, the director of Creativity & Innovation at the Greater Richmond Chamber Of Commerce, is a community cheerleader. Honestly, she is one of the most excited people I have ever spoke to about Richmond and its bright future, and that feeling is infectious. I spoke with her about the recently released RVA Look Book, the i.e* initiative, and the role the GRCC has in the big picture.
“The Chamber of Commerce is made up of companies large and small,” Neal explained. “A big part of what we do, and the part in which I am working, is [working with] businesses who have money in their budgets to give back to the community. We have a Chamber foundation that is a non-profit organization, and we use it for the betterment of the city.” The GRCC’s recent investments helped establish the i.e* initiative and the RVA Look Book happen.
“The i.e* initiative is a workforce alignment issue,” Neal said. “We are trying to recruit and retain the best and the brightest young people, to [either] move to or stay in Richmond, so companies in town will have their [labor] resource needs met. Studies show that young people want to live in cities that are progressive, open minded, interesting, and creative. We thought we would take a shot at capturing the essence of what is happening in Richmond in this RVA Look Book.”
The RVA Look Book is a 200+ page tome showcasing the things that make up the Richmond creative culture, as well as the companies that support it. Neal and project manager Anoa Monsho came up with the idea to do something visual that would be less dull than the typical tourism project. They hoped to let the pictures dominate, to tell the story in a way that words could not capture. “We thought there would be three audiences for it,” Neal explained. “Companies could use it for recruitment. They can pass it out to possible employees and give them an idea of where Richmond is culturally.”
The second intended audience is “people that live in Richmond that are only vaguely aware of the music or art scene, but have no way to tap into it,” Neal continued. “Those folks, when they are able to see in an official book that we are a creative city, [will] believe it. I felt like the book could turn those folks to into ambassadors [for] how amazing our city is, and [get them to] communicate that to people living outside the community. The third audience involves publications across the country. We are starting an official PR campaign and mailing them out to media nationwide to try and pique their curiosity about Richmond. Hopefully, it won’t be anything like they thought.”
For our culture to continue its growth, it is necessary for us to see value in each element of our community that can facilitate creativity. The artistic community will be able to realize its full potential when it communicates its goals and works with local business, as it did in The RVA Street Art Festival. The business community will understand the value of culture when seen through the lens of organizations that speak its language, like the GRCC. The local government will pay attention and support our goals when it sees that everyone else is working together and has a plan for where we as a community are going. We are not there yet, but the bigger picture of Richmond as a true artistic city at the forefront of creative innovation has never been more attainable. The advances taking place are happening because everyone is coming to the table trying to do their part. What kind of city do we want Richmond to be? We are finding out.
To get involved, or to find out more information about local creative initiatives, check out the GRCC HERE.
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