Thursday, April 08, 2010

Moving Down The Urban Hierarchy

Sometimes, I think the Rust Belt blues are about the past. Detroit is most definitely in the here and now. But other shrinking cities are dealing with chronic struggles resulting from a blow that may have happened over 50-years ago. The regional economy is so bad for so long that we miss the transformation happening right in front of us. Bear witness to Kansas City:

In moving his family to Kansas City this summer, the Mexico City-born and raised [Julián] Zugazagoitia (pronounced SZU-ga-sa-GOY-tee-ah) will exchange a high-profile office on New York’s Museum Mile for one at this premier museum of the Midwest. For the past seven years, as director of El Museo del Barrio, he has been credited with increasing its attendance five-fold, doubling its budget and raising $44 million for renovations. ...

... Zugazagoitia’s path to the Midwest first took him to the Sorbonne for his education, to a post as the executive assistant to the director at the Guggenheim Museum, as a curator of the 25th São Paulo Biennale in Brazil, and through serving as a cultural attaché in the permanent Mexican delegation to UNESCO in Paris, a consultant with the Getty Conservation Institute on European and African projects, and for two years as director of visual arts for the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He speaks six languages and is of Basque and German heritage.

The news of the day will likely continue to move my pen toward different topics: U.S. Census figures of Latino growth and migration, the draconian slaps the Missouri legislature routinely attempts against immigrants falling in the category of illegal, struggles to raise the deplorable dropout rates of Latino children. By that topic list, one could argue that I’m a willing accomplice in twisting images of Latinos here away from the varied everyday lives that most conduct; existences that rarely generate headlines.

There are a host of surprises in the above three paragraphs. Midwestern demographics are changing, and I don't mean population decline. More striking is the cosmopolite relocation from Alpha City New York to (maybe) gamma backwater Kansas City. Not to disparage Missouri's Left Coast, the news is a bit of a shock.

Kansas City?

Perhaps I'm drinking too much of my own Kool Aid. The Midwest I see is full of these stories. Sure, I read the bad news. Most of that can be explained with legacy costs. The burden is real, but has little to do with what is going on right now. Outsiders are taking advantage of the opportunity landscape.

Much of the Heartland has weathered the recession well. If you decided to move to improve, then KC or Des Moines represent a good bet. More generically, you can't go too wrong in a small college city. The Midwest is full of them. Otherwise, you can play the world city game. There's much more upside in Kansas City.

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