Memphis: Cradle of Creativity
The Brooks Museum is constructing a new building on the river. The lead architects want a one word description of Memphis to help them envision what this building will look like. Let me take the opportunity to (again) promote my (long-running but largely-ignored) campaign to have Memphis adopt as its new tag: Memphis: Cradle of Creativity.
“Cradle of Creativity” works on so many levels. For one, it’s a rift on the very origin of the city’s name. Memphis was named for the capital of ancient Egypt, because of the Mississippi River being the new Nile. Egypt is part of what’s called, “the cradle of civilization.” In an update very particular to our city, our Memphis is the cradle of creativity.
The city’s current tags don’t cut it. “Home of the Blues,” “Birthplace of Rock-n-Roll,” “BBQ Capital of the World.” Those are piecemeal names that don’t encompass even our recent artistic past—Jookin and Crunk, for example—much less the future. Nor do our current tags cover creativity in areas other than music or food, such as the next-day delivery of FedEx.
In all areas, Memphis is creative; we don’t follow anyone else’s lead; we do it our way (just ask the Memphis Grizzlies Grit and Grind.) We don’t try to “be” another city. We are our own uniquely creative selves. And even if someone else is already doing it, Memphis’s creativity is going to kick in, and we’ll do it differently.
Something I noticed about those struggling to put their finger on one word for Memphis. They keep trying to cover it all. You can’t do that by focusing on the pieces. The city needs an umbrella term that covers the wild mix and swirl that is Memphis. Nor can we pick some shiny adjective that tries to hide how horrible much of our history has been, the same way we don’t need to reach for a goal of who we want to be but are not yet. Look at what we’ve always been and will continue to be. The thread that runs through the city as sure as the Mississippi River: our creativity.
The Cradle of Creativity. It’s three words, not one. But it’s my choice.