Fifth in an occasional series
If you ever want to gain a little perspective on how Sacramento treats its creative community, drive 8,700 miles across 27 states for six weeks to talk to people about their career paths and how they create in their city. You will likely return a changed soul.
From graphic designers, graffiti artists and glass blowers to food writers, art directors and leather workers, I’ve spoken with dozens of people in different industries since launching my podcast, “Creating Your Own Path,” in February 2014.
After recording nearly 70 interviews and spending time in cities such as Austin, Texas; Burlington, Vt.; Greenville, S.C.; Missoula, Mont.; and Portland, Ore., I’ve started to see common topics weave throughout the series. Themes of recovering after the recession and overcoming the fear of trying new things tend to rise to the top.
And when I got to the question about what it’s like creating in a particular city, nearly every person mentioned a sense of community.
As a native Sacramentan who has spent the majority of her life living in various neighborhoods throughout the region, I started thinking about the people – my community – here in town, and I wondered: Are we supportive of one another? Do we welcome input and creative expression from those with fresh eyes such as newcomers and non-locals? When faced with a contentious issue, are we inclusive? Are we a community that invests in those who need it most? Do we think about our region in terms of where it fits in the national or international conversation?
In many ways, the answer is yes to those questions, but we’ve still got work to do. This region is a wonderful place, and we can all do a bit more to shift the conversation and invest in those who are making strides – big and small – to keep the Sacramento creative community thriving.
Let’s start with that word “community.” It can take on different meanings for different people. In Austin, people noted a spirit of support over competition. In Burlington, I discovered a palpable sense of pride as my podcast guest and his team spent the afternoon showing me around the city, introducing me to woodworkers, fixture designers and other small-business owners.
Some people mentioned an abundance of events supporting and connecting those in the local creative scene. Others mentioned the thrill of seeing someone creating something new whenever they walked just a couple of blocks in their city. Yet, more often than not, the most distilled answer to my question came down to the people within a community.
Here in Sacramento, our people are our strength. Yes, there are dozens of events taking place on any given day – from grand gestures such as TBD Fest to smaller niche meet-ups every night. Our arts community is thriving, and we’ve got a pretty strong commitment to beautification and development efforts. While events, development projects and advocacy work all play a part in the big picture, our community could do a better job focusing on the one element that brings it all together: the people.
Last month, I attended Region Rising, a first-time conference that attempted to bring together the business and public sectors and creative community to dream big about our region’s future.
Keynote speaker Richard Florida was right to note the various ways in which Sacramento should be tapping into its creative community. Many of the creative entrepreneurs in attendance, of course, took to social media in agreement. Florida also mentioned that creativity comes in different forms and, after speaking with so many individuals in various industries and working creatively myself, his comments did a lot to cement my thoughts.
As an example: I write for publications with hundreds of thousands of readers from across the globe, and my podcast is listened to in more than 100 countries. Whenever possible, I share stories about the people and places I know and love in Sacramento. And yet, I find that unless I write about or discuss Sacramento in a local publication or outlet that’s read or listened to primarily by Sacramentans, my work is often seen as not quite local enough and not quite worthy of recognition here in my city.
Case in point: at the Region Rising conference – an event whose keynote speaker’s life’s work revolves around studying the creative class – a former colleague looked at me and asked incredulously, “What are you doing here?”
It’s a great question. What am I doing here? What are any of us doing here?
Well, I’ll tell you: some of us are creating spectacular events, while others are sitting in a room writing music. Some of us are taking on huge public art projects, while others perfect the designs of a jewelry line in a small home studio. Some of us don’t have a visual representation of our contribution to the community at all. Some of us are simply working from coffee shops or co-working spaces, whether we’re at home or on the road.
Yet, we all have to live and work somewhere – even if just for a short time. I’ve chosen the Sacramento region as my home base. It’s an easy place to love, yet I’d like to urge every Sacramentan to take note of the different ways your creative community is making Sacramento a better place and show your appreciation for their contributions.
We, as a community, need to start supporting the people who make our city great – whether they create a big, flashy, beautiful spectacle or they work quietly at their craft, and whether they’ve lived here since birth or they’ve just arrived. I commend The Bee for taking a chance by reaching out to creatives who might just have something to say.
I may not have all of the answers, but I do have an idea of where to start. Let’s buy art from those creating around us, subscribe to outlets and publications that tell the stories of this region and beyond, fund projects by those trying to do big things, share the work of those we admire, attend events and highlight those doing great work.
It’s easier than you think and often comes down to participation, support, inclusivity, humility and generosity. Those values and actions are abundant, they stick around, and they can define a community. It’s about time we allow those values to define us.
Jennifer E. Snyder is a writer and a podcast host who lives in West Sacramento. Visit her website at jenniferesnyder.com.
Jennifer E. Snyder
- Since graduating with a degree in English literature from California State University, Sacramento, Jennifer has created written, visual and audio content for organizations, publications, websites, podcasts, apps and blogs.
- She launched the Creating Your Own Path podcast in an effort to share the stories and common experiences of those working in various creative industries.
- As a rule, she believes in dabbling, trying new things, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and learning from others.
- When she’s not working, Jennifer can be found traveling, hiking and exploring Sacramento with her husband and two dogs.