Mark Peres Celebrator of the creative class
Celebrator of the creative class
Six years ago, relative newcomer Mark Peres saw a void in Charlotte. There was no outlet, he thought, that celebrated artistic expression and sought to elevate the discourse. So he created one. Charlotte ViewPoint started as a modest, digital magazine with original essays, poetry, and photography. The first issue went to friends and neighbors. Within a few months, top local leaders were contributing columns alongside brand-new voices. And Peres knew he was on to something.
"If we could tap into the talent of everyday citizens and share it through the Internet," he says, "then we could have ideas about the city flow bottom-up as opposed to the traditional way it happened in Charlotte, which is top-down."
Now, it's a full-fledged nonprofit with a Web site (charlotteviewpoint.org) and a board of directors. Peres, an assistant professor at Johnson & Wales, thinks that for Charlotte to achieve its potential "as the next great livable American city," it needs a healthier cultural climate. That's where he thinks Charlotte ViewPoint can help.
"When I think of cities like Boston and Paris and New York and San Francisco and Chicago, these are all hotbeds of creative production. Original work is produced there. And it's not because they're smarter than us; it's not because the people there have any different DNA than us. It's that they've created a culture where that is valued and celebrated and rewarded."
"You do it by calling attention to Charlotte's creativity and lifting up individuals who are willing to swim against the stream, to be different, to fail, and to be odd. It requires a social system that protects people from being odd, and we don't quite have that yet."
"When actors can make a living as actors, when writers can make a living as writers, filmmakers can make a living as filmmakers, that's a point of arrival. Until we're at that point, we haven't professionalized those services. They're still in the realm of amateur services."
"Charlotte will become notable and significant when it is a hub of innovation—just as Nashville and Austin is for music, Raleigh and San Jose is for entrepreneurs, Hollywood is for movies, New York is for everything. Charlotte innovated in the '70s and '80s, revolutionizing regional and national banking. Perhaps our new hubs of innovation will be energy and medicine. If so, we have a bright future."
Big Idea"The broader mission has been to speak to where the region is and where it is going, appreciating that Charlotte may not fully realize its own creative strengths and talents. We're consumers of art and culture; we haven't matured yet to become producers of it. So we seek to be incubators of citizens who are producing, as opposed to simply consuming."