Hello loyal SLP blog readers!

We kicked our “arts and culture” day off with a development update from the LEDC’s Katie Decker. Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of square footage and spec warehouses, she emphasized that the arts are a fundamental pillar of economic development, a perfect precursor to the rest of our day. If decision-makers don’t think that they’d like living in a city, then they certainly won’t greenlight an expansion. That’s why developing a “livable” experience is such an important part of the placemaking work EDCs do.  

After Katie’s development update, the participants carpooled to the Polk Museum of Art. There, we heard from Dr. Alex Rich, the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the museum. If Dr. Rich and his team are one thing, it’s ambitious; and through their connections to both the art and local community, run a museum that punches well above its weight class. As we toured the museum Dr. Rich spoke to us about the power of making connections. Developing a unique exhibit seems like it’s part treasure hunt and part dissertation, and a huge part of the process is reaching out to museums and private collectors and asking to borrow their work. You won’t know what’s out there unless you ask (a message echoed by another speaker later in the afternoon). While touring the museum, Dr. Rich gave us some insight into the business side of running a museum. That work is culminating in a 14,000 square foot expansion that is sure to draw even more people from the Central Florida region to Lakeland.  

After a brief tour of the museum itself, the participants made their way over to the historic Polk Theatre. This was my first time in the theatre, and I was not expecting it to be just… So. Old. If anybody else thinks it looked like something straight out of the 1920s, that’s because it is. But due to the renovation efforts of the community, it’s in remarkable shape. We heard all about its history, how it’s played into the growth of the city, and what sort of programs it runs today. As I learned more about the history of the theatre, I felt like my appreciation for it grew. Funnily enough, that was a key theme of the documentary we watched in the afternoon, The People Who Live There.  

After arriving back at Catapult, breaking for a delicious lunch catered by kitchen member Bandidas, and testing our economic development knowledge with an impromptu Kahoot game, we viewed the aforementioned documentary, which provided a look into what makes the city of Lakeland unique as viewed through the lense of the families that occupy its historic homes. The documentary highlighted all SLP’s points of emphasis. Lakeland’s a big town, but not too big. There’s art, there’s community, and most importantly there’s opportunity. After viewing the documentary, we got the opportunity to hear from Campbell Rice and Connor O’Brien, the team that makes up The Collection Media. They spoke about how they came up with the idea, the process of developing the documentary, and what’s next for them. They emphasized the importance of being unapologetically themselves, and the grit required to chase your dreams, even if sometimes they have to start small.  

Next, we heard from Bump Galletta, a professional illustrator that has made his career out of creating minimalist art of, and for, Lakeland. He echoed Dr. Rich’s point about the importance of “just asking.” Bump is a self-proclaimed super extrovert, and it’s how he’s gotten so many of his opportunities. If he’s at a market or pop-up, he says he’s always introducing himself, being kind, and getting to know the people he’s talking to. Especially in a city like Lakeland, this is how you can make connections and create chances for yourself to succeed. Aside from the business side of Bump’s art, he told us a little about his story. 5 years ago, he was in a life-changing cycling accident, but without that having happened, he never would have worked towards quitting his day job and doing art full time. What started as therapy for one of the worst things that’s ever happened to him, has turned into his life’s work.  

To wrap up Week 4 of SLP the participants made their way over to Tiger Town for a stadium tour with Gracie Plair. She showed us around the operations center, spoke a bit about her role at the stadium, and answered any questions we had about the business side of minor league baseball. Every time I learn more about the Flying Tigers and their connection to the Detroit Tigers, I’m amazed by the historical and cultural significance to the city and the organization as a whole.   

Some of the participants stayed afterwards for all you can eat stadium food and what was supposed to be a baseball game against the Bradenton Marauders, but Mother Nature had other plans in store, and the game got rained out.  

Next week will be a bittersweet one, but I’m looking forward to telling you all about our Industry Day and graduation ceremony.  

Until next time, 

James Simpson

SLP Intern