Learning from others to improve our lot

New Orleans is a unique city in many respects. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot to learn from other cities in the US. We all have similar problems, especially as related to music, zoning and permitting for entertainment; sustaining and growing artistic and creative communities; and planning for cultural growth.

On August 16 to 18, The ELLA Project will host the first ELLA Music Policy Conversations that will convene in New Orleans.

The “conversations” were conceptualized and organized by Ashlye Keaton and Gene Meneray, principals in the ELLA Project, with the participation of Greg Lambousy, Director of the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and OffBeat.

Keaton said “These conversations have three primary goals. We want to  introduce New Orleans cultural and policy leaders to experts from across North America who are engaged with music strategies, research, and policies that are beneficial for music ecosystems in communities across North America.

“Secondly, we want to give these delegates the ability to experience New Orleans food, music and culture in a highly personal and tangible way, and third, we want to facilitate an intensive look by these delegates into specific issue areas that are a concern for New Orleans. How can these experienced delegates help us with developing specific New Orleans-centric solutions?”

Delegates include a host of experienced policy makers from the US and Canada, including Michael Bracy (Music Policy Forum, Washington, DC);  Jesse Elliott (Bohemian Foundation, Fort Collins, CO); Ismael Guerrero (Denver Housing Authority, Denver, CO);  Jocelyn Kane (former Executive Director, San Francisco Entertainment Commission,  San Francisco, CA);  Kwende Kefentse, Cultural Research & Development (City of Ottawa, Ottawa); and Amy Terrill (Deputy Director, Music Canada, Toronto).

One of the major events will include an intense conversation with the top mayoral candidates, and ELLA has confirmed participation from the four leading candidates: Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell, Desiree Charbonnet, and Frank Scurlock.

We’ll demonstrate to these candidates that there is a vast network of experts across North America who can support our City through strategy and networking. While New Orleans is truly a unique city, the challenges of sustaining healthy cultural ecosystems are universal, and we want these candidates to embrace the idea that New Orleans benefits from being proactive and engaged with individuals who have “been there, done that.”

Furthermore, these candidates will also appear at a public candidate forum on September 11. Keaton says “We want to ensure that [the candidates] have every opportunity to be connected to experts, successful strategies and anything else that could encourage them to lay out a strong, proactive vision for how they would like to support the New Orleans cultural community as Mayor.”

Subjects will include topics such as developing effective partnerships between the city and philanthropic entities; noise policies and zoning; and developing a successful  strategy for music in the city that will maximize benefits as much as possible for all participants in the music economy.

Keaton added: “Lafayette has launched its CREATE initiative, which is on the  ballot in November. The goal is $500,000 annually dedicated to boost existing city arts grants and develop a united strategy among its arts, culture, recreation, entertainment and tourism efforts. Attendees will include representatives from the Mayor’s office, cultural community, and the Acadiana Center for the Arts. “

Delegates will share thoughts on ways to integrate cultural policy into all levels of city government; electoral strategies and messaging;  how mid-size cities (Fort Collins, etc) have championed music.; and strategies on regional music development for culturally rich but small communities outside Lafayette (Opelousas, Eunice, etc).

The event will also include a “Community Conversation” between delegates and cultural leaders to engage in open dialog with the delegates to learn more about their work and explore areas of potential collaboration. ELLA has invited 100 key leaders, including musicians, venue owners, researchers, cultural activists, journalists and other important stakeholders to participate.

This is a first step in working to develop a viable strategy that city leaders can access to improve the cultural and music community in New Orleans.


  • Khris Royal

    Why wasn’t MACCNO a part of this conversation?