Last week the most current Director of the City’s Cultural Economy Office, musician and academician Dr. Brice Miller, was let go. He lasted three months. In the time he served, he told OffBeat, he says he never once met with Mayor Cantrell.
I don’t know what the current iteration of the Cultural Economy Office is supposed to do, but apparently Miller wasn’t doing it.
In the past, the Cultural Economy Office was staffed by several folks (Scott Hutcheson being the last Director) who dealt with everything from producing Cultural Economy reports, to dealing with noise ordinance issues, expediting film and television permits, funding selected projects and more.
I tried calling the Cultural Economy Office last Friday (actually, I found out later, the day that Miller was terminated), and got no answer. I called a few of the numbers listed on that page of the city’s website, and either got no answer, or when I tried calling the main number, I got nowhere.
This does not bode well for the city—or for those of us who have been working for years to get a seat at the table with city government—for the thousands of individuals who are the backbone of New Orleans culture: musicians, visual artists, writers, actors, theater and film folk, Mardi Gras Indians, SAPCs, even culinary workers.
On September 12, there was a meeting to try to assess what we might need for the Cultural Economy Office. What is the purpose of this office? Is it simply an entity that guides artists and cultural entities through a permitting process? What authority does it have? What kind of person should run it? Surely, not people who were thrown a job in that office to repay their working in a campaign?
What’s the purpose of the office? Shouldn’t this office be developing a strategy to nurture, grown and improve cultural resources, the quality of life for culture producers, and grow New Orleans reputation as a mecca for our unique way of life, whether it be in music, food, art, writing, traditions, education in same?
A person who represents our culture should be sitting at the executive level, perhaps heading up an actual “Department of Cultural Economy” to emphasize the importance of culture as an integral part of New Orleans. Thus, the idea of New Orleans’ cultural identity would be established permanently in city government, and would not be subject to political regimes. Our culture identity and its importance to all aspects of our daily lives must and should permeate all the decisions made at the executive city level, from noise ordinances, to zoning, to managing the nighttime economy, to affordable housing, to education and much more.
We shouldn’t accept less.