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On February 25, 2016, I presented Developing a Creative Economy at Northern Illinois University's day-long workshop - Creative Enterprises & Downtown Prosperity. Following is an article written by the Editor of the Downtown Auroran Magazine on Feb. 26, 2016 about the presentation and what Aurora is doing to develop their own creative economy. Find original article at http://www.downtownauroran.com/unleashing-downtown-auroras-creative-economy/

Pam Schallhorn recently gave a stage full of workshop attendees permission to be creative.

As Schallhorn, a community economic development educator from University of Illinois Extension, spoke to the civic-minded crowd at the Egyptian Theatre in downtown DeKalb, she said it's OK to break the rules.

Schallhorn encouraged the audience to stand up, walk around, and talk quietly. Creatives need space, she said. They need to be encouraged.

To create a creative economy in a city, creativity should be allowed to blossom, Schallhorn told folks from Aurora, Batavia, Galena, Rockford, and elsewhere.

"It needs to be allowed to happen," she said.

Schallhorn's words resonated with us – the ones who sleep, breathe, and eat "downtown revitalization." We were all on the same team. The underdogs. Schallhorn rooted for us and we took it all in – word by word.

She made us think when she stated that "people are the assets."

She made us laugh when she said, "Think global. Eat local." We all got it. We break our necks trying to get people to support local businesses.

She understood the challenges of working with committees and local government.

Schallhorn told us to "go back to your creatives and let them create."

In Aurora, we are teaming with creatives. Downtown Aurora is currently home to multiple art galleries and studio spaces, three museums, two theaters, a dance studio, a co-working space, and several grassroots events, including First Fridays.

Creatives are in downtown – living, working, and playing. But are we fully utilizing them? Are we letting them create?

Alley Art Festival and the Vacant Window Project create opportunities for artists. Musicians are finding more options in downtown with M.U.S.I.C. Mondays and Wednesdays at the Plaza. But how else can we utilize local talent? How else can we create and support a market for our creatives? What endeavors can we work on as a community?

I'd like to see artists hired to design bike racks and murals. Artists can work with the city to create signage, kiosks, and other elements essential to a downtown. And downtown is ripe for more public art, more creative collaboration, and more creativity.

We know what we have. Now we need to support it.

We need to go back to our creatives and let them create.