July 7, 2017

How a vacant store became a home base for jazz in New Orleans

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

The New Orleans Jazz Market is home to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and also includes a 360-seat performance space, an interactive community learning area, and a bar. Photo by Margaret Myers

Jazz as anchor: Leaders in New Orleans are reaping the benefits of a creative idea to transform a vacant discount department store into a home base for arts and music. The New Orleans Jazz Market, a reimagined use of a 14,000-square-foot former store, features a 350-seat auditorium that hosts the New Orleans Jazz orchestra in addition to a cafe, bar, archive, and a digital archive of jazz music. The space, which was recently profiled in an article from the Congress for a New Urbanism, opened in 2015. Irvin Mayfield, a Grammy winner and the Jazz Market director, speaks of the transformative power of space in the piece: “The Jazz Market for us is a physical representation of the real power of this music to be a door opener.”

A playbook for public good: How can urban leaders and citizens leverage the strengths of cities—density, walkability, proximity, and more—to spur innovation and jumpstart underserved economies? That is one of the many questions under review as part of an ongoing initiative and study among the United States Conference of Mayors, the Brookings Institution, and the Project for Public Spaces. The groups recently met to discuss these policies and published a co-bylined piece titled “How Mayors Can Drive Inclusive Growth.” Leaders in this space are increasingly interested in the ways mayors can be effective in leading the way in spurring innovation centers in depressed urban centers. Mayors can serve as both conveners and champions of these initiatives.

A fresh start: A New York-city based organization that seeks to reduce recidivism rates among young people by offering culinary training to 18- to 25-year-olds is expanding its operations. The nonprofit Drive Change, which has operated a food truck called Snowday since 2014, is rebranding its truck as Drive Change and seeking to scale its operations to cities including Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The organization is hoping to increase the number of fellows who cycle through its program, from about eight a year to 40, according to NationSwell. “We’ve been able to have young people we work with take ownership of our mission and what we stand for, and that’ll be forefront in our [new] brand identity,” founder Jordyn Lexton tells the site.

Jim Walsh

Jim Walsh is a contributor to The Renewal Project.