If there’s one thing good art needs, it’s cheap rent. Greatness often has humble beginnings – think the Mississippi Delta, Liverpool or Greenwich Village.
I recently traveled to New York and visited Greenwich Village. All indications of any bohemianism and creativity have been replaced entirely by Marc Jacobs stores, designer strollers, and busy people rushing to and fro with coffees.
Remember, this is the place that was once home to Walt Whitman, Jimi Hendrix, Jackson Pollock, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac. This was the neighborhood where they lived cheaply during the some of the most productive and influential cultural periods in American history. Today, almost all traces of that history has been bleached out, homogenized and gentrified.
That is why I read everything I could get my hands on about the Cloud Hill proposal and the affordable living it calls for when I first heard about it. I’m wholeheartedly convinced this is the kind of investment this city needs to protect our history while encouraging our development as an artistic destination.
Our economy is strong, our growth is outrageous, and our real estate is booming; but we don’t have anything like Cloud Hill in Nashville today. Let’s make room for it.
Other places around this country will offer cheaper rent, and if artists can’t make ends meet here, they will be forced to leave. Many of the greatest artists who ever lived were not born into affluence. They struggled and lived cheaply so they could create and invest their time and money into their projects.
The kind of affordable living that Cloud Hill proposes allows artists to grow, inspire one another and influence entire movements. Nashville is unfortunately losing that at an alarming rate.
A dear friend of mine packed his bags last week and left Nashville. We sat and talked for hours over coffee in East Nashville about the future of music here. He’d written several hits, songs we all grew up singing on the radio. The cost of living had become too great, and now he’s gone. Another friend of mine has songs on the radio right now, and he expressed to me in a moment of honest vulnerability he’s been worried recently about bills and grocery money.
Music City. If we’re serious about holding onto that title, we need to be as concerned with our future as we have been with our past. We cannot rest on the laurels of yesterday. We must continue to invest in ideas that provide the space to protect and nurture the continuation of what Nashville has always been: a place where some of the greatest music in the world is written, sung and recorded. We must give musicians a place to thrive, not just scrape by.
If there is a Dylan, Warhol or Baez among us, let’s keep them here. Cloud Hill is something that can do just that.