Friday, January 22, 2010

What Cleveland Needs in 2010: An Identity

Cleveland Memory Project director Bill Barrow has suggested that what Cleveland really needs is an identity. Something that incorporates its historic roots, its evolution, and its potential. A tall order, to be sure -- one that can’t fit onto a bumper sticker. An identity shouldn’t fit on a bumper sticker, anyway. An identity is fundamentally different from a marketing slogan, such as The Best Location in the Nation, or a brand, such as CLE+.

Now don’t get me wrong -- marketing is vital to a city’s economic success. But Cleveland can’t find itself solely through the trumpeting of its positive attributes -- no matter how positive they are. It’s like casting a blind eye to your kid’s obnoxious nose-picking habit because, well, he’s your kid, and isn’t he precious? In pop psychology terms, it’s the difference between building up self-esteem and encouraging self-actualization.

Understanding the city’s past is vital to constructing its identity. So the next logical step after a good, hard round of civic self-exploration is the construction of a cohesive civic identity. Something that won’t exactly fit on a bumper sticker, but could be summed up in 100-200 words.

Anyone care to give it a try? Email us at clevelandareahistory [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll post some of our favorite responses. (We’ll try our hand at it, too!)

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