“I could be anywhere, but I’m right here…”
In this song, “right here” refers to the happening city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. What’s that? You don’t think Fort Wayne is happening? Neither do the list-makers: as The Atlantic Cities points out, Fort Wayne’s superlatives have included being among the country’s “dumbest” and “fattest.” But some young people are setting out to change that image, and they’ve put together a pretty compelling case for having pride in Fort Wayne, if not visiting/staying/relocating there:
This technique isn’t new. At the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s recent conference on ‘Building Resilient Cities’ earlier this month, I learned about a similar effort in Grand Rapids, Michigan, another declining city in the heartland that is remaking itself by branding its vibrancy. Whether or not that was the intention, their lip-dub to ‘American Pie’ broadcasts a “creative class” vibe and a sincerity–not to mention dedication–that’s hard not to appreciate. While I may have chosen a different song, my first impression of Grand Rapidians (?) is a positive one:
It’s also worth noting that this effort, which engaged some 5,000 residents and more or less shut down the city, was actually a response to Newsweek calling Grand Rapids a dying city. With choreographed pyrotechnics, tumbling, interchangeable troubadours, and even a helicopter flight, the city looks very much alive. Maybe this is something for Lawrence, MA–recently dubbed “city of the damned” by Boston Magazine–to consider trying out as they work to battle ever-worsening perceptions.