Idea #23: Terrain meets TED

There’s something about Terrain that draws people in…is it the curation? The underground vibe? What is it? And how can we transfer that success to a major innovation conference for Spokane? (PHOTO: Terrain Spokane)

Terrain is cool. If nothing else, this year’s event proved that. Terrain 7 received more submissions than ever before, and the resulting curated one-night-only event drew in a record number of visitors. Better yet, the burgeoning movement has launched a campaign for a permanent venue at its new home in the Washington Cracker Company Building on Pacific.

TED is cool. The innovation and leadership conference has grown from humble beginnings into a worldwide phenomenon drawing thousands of changemakers every meeting and hundreds of millions of YouTube views.

Which brings forth an interesting question: what would happen if Spokane brought together the hyper-cool creative atmosphere of Terrain and the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of TED? Imagine a one-day-only conference focusing on innovation, creativity, and change. Imagine Spokane drawing together leaders in technology, the physical sciences, the social sciences, the arts, and others in a common, one-night festival of what’s next, what’s new, and what’s inspiring. We already have a TEDx event, but it’s small, limited in scope, and ineffective at building Spokane’s innovation culture.

This conference needs to be big.

Like, Convention Center or INB Performing Arts Center big. We need to inspire Spokane’s youngest kids to get interested in STEAM-based careers. We need to grow our startup infrastructure into something that can support a vibrant technology sector. We need to continue to develop strong events that build participation in local arts and culture. A TED-style event with the spirit, drive, and curation of Terrain could make that happen.

What do you think? Would you like to see a TED-style event in Spokane? What do you think of adding Terrain’s signature style and curation? Do you think that such a move could help to inspire the next generation of local youth to explore STEAM careers? What about growing our startup or innovation culture? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

How to fix Spokane’s “brain drain”

Biology and bioengineering labs are a critical component to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) education. What if Spokane offered scholarships to local students interested in pursuing STEAM? (PHOTO: Noll & Tam)

Spokane has a “brain drain” problem. Currently, many of our brightest high school seniors choose colleges and universities located on the coast, in cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, or in the east, in areas like, New York, Massachusetts, and the Washington, D.C. area. (For example, this blogger attends Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley.) That would be fine if those students moved back to Spokane upon graduation. But they don’t.

Typically, these students leave Spokane when they turn 18 and don’t come back, perhaps partially because in-routes to established companies, economic opportunity, and culture are seen as more plentiful in those larger, more established cities. There’s “more to do,” more “people like me,” and “more jobs.” (Or so people think.) The brain drain continues.

But what if we had a way to end it?

We talk a lot in this community about bonds and levies. These tax measures are designed to allow for infrastructure investment, parks and recreation improvements, road construction, and school renovations. A small levy, or even a large grant from a charitable organization, however, would be enough to make a big difference in our “brain drain” problem.

Let’s offer any high school senior in Spokane who wishes to pursue a career in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) a $5,000/year college scholarship. In return, the student would agree to move back to Spokane for a period of at least three years post-graduation (with postponement available for years of service and graduate school). Simple. Easy. These fields are constantly cited as the types of industries which our city must attract in order to remain competitive in the 21st century. So let’s do something about it. Let’s encourage students to go into STEAM fields. Let’s encourage students to move back to Spokane. Let’s grow our local economy by leaps and bounds.

The best part is that this type of measure need not be expensive. A levy the size of the roads levy planned for the November ballot, for example, would make a big difference. $10 million/year for higher education is a small figure compared to the possible economic benefit of increased STEAM engagement in the area. Even a large grant or series of grants could be huge for area students.

And with a requirement that student return to Spokane, there’s a good chance that we’d hook them in for good.

What do you think? Could college scholarships/grants for STEAM students help improve Spokane’s local economy and increase the number of young, urban professionals? Would you be willing to pay $20 more per year in property taxes to fund scholarships for high school seniors? Disregarding a funding mechanism, what do you think about requiring that students move back to Spokane? Share your thoughts below, on Facebook, and on Twitter. We love to hear from you.

Revival: The State of Live Music in Spokane

The Bartlett offers not just an excellent music venue in a design-rich and incredibly inspiring atmosphere, but also an excellent café/bar open six days a week. (PHOTO: Brandon J. Vasquez via @bartlettspokane on Instagram)
The Bartlett offers not just an excellent music venue in a design-rich and incredibly inspiring atmosphere, but also an excellent café/bar open six days a week. (PHOTO: Brandon J. Vasquez via @bartlettspokane on Instagram.)

Who would have thought, a year or two ago, that for Spokane, still recovering from a deep economic crisis that hit many live music venues so hard that they closed entirely, 2013 and 2014 would be two of the biggest, most important years for live music in the city’s history? It’s been a year marked by triumphs (i.e. the opening of the Bartlett, landing Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi at the Spokane Arena) and setbacks (i.e. the closing of the Knitting Factory for reasons of public safety, unexpected delays in the opening of the Bartlett), but in the end, Spokane has learned a lot about itself and about its music scene.

We’ve learned that rock still rules. The Spokane Arena had a major coup last year when it landed Pearl Jam, maybe at the suggestion of the Inlander. Then it landed Bon Jovi (and then promptly initiated a brief tone-deaf but probably overblown name-change debacle). There was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but there was also Nine Inch Nails. There will be Tool. And Motley Crue. Really. Motley Crue. These high-profile bookings, especially of rock icons Bon Jovi, indicate that Spokane’s music scene is perhaps ready for something big. But there’s a good chance that it will be buoyed by Spokane’s strange-but-somehow-fitting love for arena rock.

We’ve learned that safety is important. Stabbings and other violence had become not commonplace, but perhaps not rare, before the Knitting Factory’s abrupt and somewhat controversial closure last spring. Police Chief Frank Straub ordered the facility closed until investigations could be made and agreements could be made with the venue’s owners to improve safety and police enforcement. Perhaps the types of acts which the Knitting Factory brings in is one of the culprits, but inadequate enforcement and police presence may have played a role as well. Similar events at The Hop later in the year caused another re-evaluation. Any ongoing conversation about the Spokane live music scene would simply be incomplete without a mention of these lingering challenges.

We’ve learned that all-ages venues matter. If nothing else, the outpouring of support for and the recent success of the Bartlett would seem to indicate that. The Bartlett is a meticulously-designed (and absolutely gorgeous) venue at 228 W Sprague near the vibrant and quickly-developing East End of downtown that has placed an emphasis on bringing in high-quality acts and utilizing its high-quality sound and acoustics system. But more than that, the venue bleeds Spokane in a very un-Spokane way, visually appearing as if it would be more fitting in Portland or Seattle, but in actuality exuding its own unique style and character. It is passionate, not cautious; a catalyst, not a one-time deal. It is an aspirational place that invites us to imagine what Spokane can be, but also to realize what it already is.

We’ve learned (or perhaps we hope to learn) that what’s dead is not always dead. Perhaps in response to the success of the Bartlett, a new group has taken the reigns at 171 S Washington and intends to reopen the Big Dipper, a primarily all-ages live music and events venue that closed during our last live music “crash.” While the venue recently reopened for events and other gatherings, it has yet to bring artists to its stage for live shows. As such, the owner has launched and Indiegogo campaign and hopes to raise $50,000 in order to recoup the costs of necessary fire sprinklers and safety improvements. (The state Legislature- and City-imposed fire sprinkler requirement, as you may recall, caused a couple of venues to close several years ago.) The Big Dipper is a Spokane landmark, and the success of this project is incredibly important to the our local music scene; we hope that it succeeds.

The upstart ventures of the Bartlett and the Big Dipper prove that Spokane live music does not need big investors to succeed. It just needs an incredible amount of passion and the support of the local community. Both the Bartlett and the Big Dipper have utilized Indiegogo in order to fund their openings, proving that crowdfunding can work. Even here.

Yes, even here. Even here, crowdfunding can work, and we hope to see that trend continue. In order to build a vibrant urban culture, live music is a must. Please support the Bartlett and the Big Dipper, and be sure to indicate your passion for our city and its local art scene. We can continue to make Spokane great; we just need to recognize that we all play a part in making a city in which we are proud to live. Music is a big part of that. It won’t be easy, but it’s true: we all build this.

Latest rendering of Worthy’s Convention Center Hotel eschews brick entirely, looks somewhat more modern

White and Black will be clothing the downtown Spokane skyline in the near future. (PHOTO: Visit Spokane)
White and Black will be clothing the downtown Spokane skyline in the near future. (PHOTO: Visit Spokane)

Here’s the latest rendering of the Convention Center Hotel currently under construction in downtown Spokane. While the basic structure of the building has not changed much since its introduction, the materials to be used certainly have. When the project was announced, it was to be built of brick with hardly a street-level enhancement. Now, the hotel will feature white and black paneling not unlike that currently covering the Spokane Convention Center/INB Performing Arts Center itself, and the street level will feature a more lively lobby and retail/restaurant spaces.

Also of note is the parking garage on the side of the block facing Main. Note the clean, bold lines of the black and white paneling and the addition of street-level enhancements. One of the fears that came with this project was that that side of the block would become dead space due to the parking garage. Now it appears that the ground level will be used for meeting or small convention space.

What do you think? Has Walt Worthy and the Davenport Hotel Collection done enough to ensure that this latest entry into Spokane’s skyline aesthetically and actively fits with the rest of downtown? Are the paneling changes enough to ensure that the building doesn’t look like the Davenport Tower? And what about those Soviet-esque windows? Share your thoughts in the comments.