By Mickey Howley
There is always this incremental tipping point, where something steadily increases to the point where it changes. And that exact point is often a bit hard to define.
So it is with the ArtCrawl – starting as a small event with eight locations and 16 artists five years ago – growing to the point where last year’s version was much larger but still seemed defined as a small event. But this ArtCrawl was different; it has made it to the point where this year it was a smaller big event.
I say smaller big because if you crunch the numbers the increase has been steady, just compare last year to this year: up three artists from 54 to 57, up four musicians from 15 to 19, up 1 more place where you could hear live music from six to seven, up five fashion models from seven to 12, and up two event places from 15 to 17.
And so objectively you might say that’s a steady increase, but not huge. But numbers don’t always tell the tale, I can tell you subjectively, it felt different. It felt big. The crowd was larger, there were way more folks who had never crawled before, both visitors and especially more locals.
Okay, there was a pretty good spicy mix of non-Yalobushians; the crunchy retired bikers from northern California, the more than several Texans, a whole bunch of saucy Memphians, and a peppering from Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia.
Plus there were plenty of Mississippians coming to crawl like hipster Biloxians, to the Chief Justice from Jackson, to the Oxonian intelligentsia. And best of all was way more local folks who had never crawled before were out enjoying their own town.
It took a big crew to pull it off, so counting all the artists, the musicians, the models, the sponsors, the City of Water Valley (Mayor, police, street, sanitation, and electric departments), the businesses, and all the Art Council members it goes well over 100 folks working to make this happen. Anytime you break that high side of 100 just in folks helping, you can say big.
But the steady increase for the crawl comes from one thing—the Valley creative economy places and people are being supported. And mainly by local folks. The creative economy, just like the local economy, depends on that local support year round. The visitors are great, but they are the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake.
That cake or base of all this activity is that very essential local and full-time support. Just having a big party once a year and bringing folks in does not keep downtown growing. The ArtCrawl just spotlights what is going on all year.
The Art Council co-ordinates this event for “us,” not for the outsider “them.” The us being the folks who live and work and shop in Water Valley. It is our own local creative economy party. Of course it is really great to have regional visitors or far away tourists, but their presence confirms what we’re doing is good, but they aren’t the reason for the event.
Thanks to all who came out and crawled, it was good time, and this year, a big time.