Okay, so this is a bit of a tangent, a little history on Lesley Riddle, an important and underappreciated African-American musician who, with the Carter Family, changed the course of country music. I’ll follow up this post with another that includes some of Lesley’s music and also some bits of tape recordings from Lesley, Maybelle Carter, and Mike Seeger.
A couple of years ago when I was Creative Economies Director at the NC Arts Council I was tasked to write an appeal to the NC Historic Commission for their rejection of a highway marker honoring Lesley Riddle, an African-American from Burnsville, NC. Riddle had a singular relationship with A.P. and Maybelle Carter and the Carter family starting in the late 1920s. The appeal followed a specific format documenting errors made by the commission. The appeal was successful and actually got applause from the panel. (It helped that two friends from Burnsville played a couple of Lesley songs at the end!)
The written appeal is 10 pages (download here) and includes the history of Lesley & the Carters relationship along with a series of support letters from historians, a relative of Lesley’s, and Rita Forrester, Sara and A.P. Carter’s granddaughter. I hope you enjoy this bit of history, truly a great American story.
Trained as an economist, I have experience in public policy and economic, community, and workforce development within the for-profit, non-profit, academic, and government sectors. I have worked with a broad range of stakeholders including government agencies, businesses, developers and property owners, advocacy groups, and community associations.
While most of my career has focused on traditional economic development and modeling, over the last decade my efforts have expanded into creative placemaking, arts-based economic and vision plan development, and public art policy and management. I have become convinced that arts, culture, creativity, and shared history define who we are and provide a robust platform for organizational, community and economic development
I specialize in strategic planning and development for companies, non-profits, communities, and governments with a focus on placemaking and arts/culture-driven creative strategies. I also focus on planning and marketing guidance for creative businesses. Contact me if your organization or company needs to rethink how and what it does and find better and more creative solutions for now and the future. Click here for a pdf of my vitae.
Me & New York City
I moved to New York about a year ago, never having lived outside the south except for a couple of years as a hiking & ski bum in Jackson Hole. I always figured it would be DC if I moved to a big city, but when my partner moved back to NYC I followed a few months later. I love it here: the people, the community, the subway system, not having a car, walking everywhere, the food and of course the nonpareil arts & cultural scene.
During my time here I have met and talked with leaders in the arts including museum executive directors, senior officials in five city agencies, nonprofit directors, economic and community development specialists, and the private sector. I use the Arts & Aesthetics page here and social media to comment on the city’s streetart and graffiti, music, museum and gallery exhibitions, public art, and arts-related economic and community development.
I’ve visited over 25 museums, some several times, from the small but growing Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art to the mother of them all, the Met. I’ve walked all over the city, been in 123 subway stations, taken a boat tour of Manhattan architecture and another of the Gowanus Canal, and visited the beaches at Coney Island and the Rockaways.
I’ve seen a remarkable version of A Streetcar Named Desire at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse, cheered the Brooklyn Cyclones, booed the Yankees, jogged through Prospect Park innumerable times, been to countless concerts, and, well, you get the picture. It has been more than I ever imagined. As Tom Wolfe noted, “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” Je suis New York.
My Work before NYC
I loved what I did in my last decade in North Carolina, namely working in the creative economy. At RTS in Chapel Hill I worked across the country helping states, regions, and cities think and work strategically. So, for example, we helped the fisheries industry in and around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We assisted the state of South Dakota rethink its technology focus in higher education and led Montana in developing regional economic development plans. We worked in the creative economy both measuring its size and helping places use the creative economy as an economic engine. That included work in Colorado, Montana, Piedmont North Carolina, Vermont, and myriad other places small and large.
As Director of Creative Economies at the North Carolina Arts Council from 2012-2015 I led the SmART Initiative, the state’s preeminent arts-driven economic and community development program. We worked with communities across the state, large and small, to use arts, culture, shared history, and creativity to build stronger economies and communities. I’ve included a number of posts that describe some of those projects.
This interview with AJ Fletcher Foundation Executive Director Damon Circosta describes my work in arts-based development. The Foundation has been a critical funder of the SmARt Initiative.