At this year’s annual Jazz Fest in New Orleans, representatives from the four main industries of Louisiana’s cultural economy–music, food, art, and film–gathered for a roundtable discussion on how their unique cultural heritage holds the key to economic recovery and growth in the region. With Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu as the host, local luminaries such as Grammy-winning musician Terrance Simien, chef John Besh, folklorist and radio host Nick Spitzer, and artist James Michalopoulos shared their perspectives on how to keep local cultural traditions alive while building sustainable livelihoods.
A couple of themes emerged, such as the necessity of collaboration among the various industries, which is critical to the success of the whole cultural economy. Richard McCarthy, who runs the Crescent City Farmers Market, spoke of his partnership with chef John Besh to build relationships between local farmers and the city’s renowned restaurants. The role of local government in both creating the space for cultural activity and providing economic incentives for cultural development was another important theme, with the most notable example being the tax incentives which have fueled Louisiana’s burgeoning film industry.
I left the roundtable inspired by the creative synergy I witnessed among the panelists. As the region rebuilds from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, it seems that New Orleans will be, as Nick Spitzer noted, “even greater than it was before.” This is a destination to keep an eye on.
Video: Susanne Hackett
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