When composer Dan Kellogg graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, he assumed that he needed to move to New York City, the center of the musical universe.
There were challenges, particularly in finding a place to live. Both he and his wife, concert pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, have grand pianos.
“Try telling that to a Realtor,” Kellogg said Thursday morning during a panel discussion on building creative communities at ArtsPlace.
Eventually, he and Hsu found a home — 1,600 miles west of New York, in Boulder, Colo., where he is an assistant professor of music at the University of Colorado and, most important, where he has found a creative community.
“It’s important to find people you want to live among,” said Kellogg, right. “I love having that local, small community, and I actually prefer this to what I could have in Manhattan.”
The Thursday morning panel, presented by LexArts in conjunction with the Lexington Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, which concludes Sunday, focused on how to make Lexington closer to what Kellogg has found in Boulder, where the real estate is affordable and the indigenous arts scene is thriving. And thriving doesn’t mean an orchestra that presents the standard repertoire, museums that display the established masters, dance and theater troupes presenting the classics and main stages populated with artists on the way from point A to point B.
The discussion centered on fostering a community that creates new work and encourages risk-taking.
“Lexington is in a position to shape its own creative future,” said Scott Terrell, Lexington Philharmonic’s music director.
Terrell spoke about moving to Charleston, S.C., a city regarded as an arts mecca for its Spoleto Festival and other offerings, and being disappointed to find that “it had become something else.”
Joining the musicians on the panel was glass artist Frank Close, who returned to Lexington a few years ago after 18 years in New York. He found that rising property values in New York made it more and more difficult to maintain studio space there.
“I thought about lots of places to have my next adventure,” said Close, who’d had a studio in Lexington before moving to New York. “Buying a house in downtown Lexington and having a yard was very appealing.”
LexArts president and chief executive Jim Clark, who moderated the panel, cited New York as an example of how artists have helped revitalize areas where property values rise to a point that they are no longer affordable to emerging artists.
Citing the migration of artists in New York from the neighborhoods of SoHo to Chelsea, both in Manhattan, to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Clark said, “Artists will find out where it’s cheapest to live.
“That’s something we might take advantage of if we could offer affordable space, particularly affordable living space.”
Lexington has numerous things that should make it appealing to artists, the panelists said, including the presence of a major university and the beauty of the natural landscape.
Kellogg, the music professor, was on the panel because he is being commissioned by the Chamber Music Festival and the Philharmonic for new compositions in the organizations’ new partnership, which will bring a steady stream of new commissioned works to Lexington. The collaboration was supported in part by Ronald Saykaly, who attended the discussion and asked a few questions and made remarks that were much more challenging than cheerleading in nature.
Yes, Lexington has a lot of the natural and infrastructure assets to foster a thriving creative community, he said. But the question, he said, is: “How do you get enough assets in the pool to advance what you really want to do?”
And that is the bottom-line question.
Successes, among them the Chamber Festival, the Balagula Theatre at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, and Institute 193, have shown that there is an interest in new creative endeavors in Lexington. But it also needs to be a place where the creators can live, and how they are supported is the most important question to answer.