Sooner or later, one of my peers will be mayor. A chilling thought for the boomers currently in power, perhaps, but nevertheless an inevitability.
That eventual Millennial Mayor — as a 32-year-old at the time of this writing, I submit that “Millennial” is more demonization than demonym — will have grown up in a vastly different Lafayette than that which produced Mayors Durel and Robideaux, and thus will be a remarkably different sort of mayor facing a different set of challenges.
New leaders will navigate our community through changing cultural seas. That future leadership needs a publication that’s representative of its values and its interests. That’s why, this April, we’re launching The Current — a journal of Lafayette’s arts and ideas.
Lafayette is in dramatic cultural transition, one as natural and powerful as aging. Boomers may yet be running this town, but their time is measured.
In that regard, Lafayette looks a lot like some of America’s urban centers. It’s getting more mobile and more educated, more tolerant and more diverse, more tech-savvy and more urbane.
That development should not be taken for granted. Working for a D.C.-based nonprofit last year, I toured several dying communities in America’s heartland, bereft of their youngsters and gasping for growth. They’re on the short end of the demographic trends that have blessed Lafayette in recent years. Their kids were raised and educated cheaply, but migrated to the nearest metropolis to find coterie with their peers. It’s not just an exodus to Brooklyn. It’s an exodus to New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston.
Lafayette’s grip on its youngest crop of nationals is precarious. Every year we risk looking less like the places these kids go, and more like the places they leave behind.
As IND Media’s newest publication, a monthly magazine and online outlet at the thecurrentla.com, The Current will examine the local and external forces that are shaping this emerging generation, and the city that they will shape in turn. In a way this has been a long time coming. The fruits of nearly three decades worth of investment in the arts, in technology and in our celebrated culture have worked. We’re more economically and culturally diverse than ever before, and more resilient and dynamic to boot. But the slog is far from over.
Much of that work was initiated by a generation that will one day retire and, more to the point, die off. Passing the baton to upstart Millennials, that most maligned and misunderstood of generations, will be an exercise in focus and collaboration.
Across age brackets, we should beg a whole new set of old questions — What do we value? What makes Lafayette a place worth living in? What does our culture say about who we are? What trends are taking hold and which are letting go? What underlying ideas shape our conventions and our politics? Who is conceiving them? And how can we climb with one hand while clutching our traditions with the other?
We here at The Current do not pretend to know the answers to any of these questions. We just work here.
Writers, artists and thinkers, drawn from that emerging generation, are best equipped to do the searching. Demographers and sociologists have taken to calling that cohort, toiling away in the knowledge economy, the creative class. The Current is their medium.
Before The Current was ever conceived, this labor force was hard at work chiseling the city into its image. Lafayette has more artists and artisans than ever before, working in an ever more diverse set of disciplines, painting new murals on our buildings, innovating on our traditional cuisine, reinterpreting our music, exploring the music of other worlds and inventing new traditions.
The Current is their gallery. And like a gallery space, The Current is open and expansive. Its pages are walls on which Lafayette’s new leaders can hang their portraits and their ideas. Through person-oriented storytelling and artist-curated spaces. Through frank reckonings with our past mistakes, and daydreams about our future. Through critical evaluation of the city we continue to build. Through an inquiry about who we are and what we do.
With The Current, we hope to forge an intimate bond with the arts community in Lafayette, providing space to publish the swelling ranks of painters, photographers, collagers, sculptors and conceptual designers who are producing an enviable brimming of work, just begging to be shared with the world. We will train a sharp focus on Lafayette’s burgeoning live theater scene and give voice to a restless and misfit crop of young musicians. We will be restless in our pursuit of context and understanding, both in our pages and in our programmed events.
Lafayette is racing in a new direction. And we intend to cover the whole ride.