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What will it take for Delaware to become a creative hub?

And what is Wilmington's brand? The 2022 Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit tackled branding and collaboration.

Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit 2022's creatives panel. ( Quinn)

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Blame the last remnants of Hurricane Ian: New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit, originally planned to be a Ladybug Festival-style block party, became an indoor-only event at The Queen, the Delaware History Museum and Old Town Hall.

But on Tuesday, the Crown Room at The Queen was a cozy escape from the rain. The panels “Build Your Brand (Not Just Your Logo)” and “The Economy of Creativity: Lifting Up the Creative Class in Delaware” gave us plenty of food for thought about Delaware’s potential for becoming a place people want to be — not just drive through.

What is Wilmington’s brand?

During the branding panel, moderator Angela Wagner, a talent manager and chief legal officer with Wilmington’s Jet Phynx Films, asked: “What is Wilmington’s brand?”

According to research by Wilmington’s Shiny agency, which worked on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s “Live Love Delaware” campaign, the city’s brand should focus on waterways, green space and community (i.e. everyone knows everyone). And, of course, its position as the heart of the incorporation world.

“You can launch a canoe and a career,” quipped Shannon Stevens, partner and creative director at Shiny.

Wilmington thrives on collaboration

The absolute top takeaway — something that was discussed at length during both of the two panels — is that Wilmington thrives on collaboration, and that those who hesitate to work with other local companies and organizations are only holding the city back.

“It takes a different train of thought to co-build brands with other companies,” said Michael Stiglitz, owner of 2 Stones Pub and director of operations at 2SP Brewing Company, admitting that he had once worried that serving other local brews at his pub would cause him to lose customers rather than increasing local interest in local breweries.

“I think a lot of people don’t really want to collaborate,” said filmmaker Jet Phynx in the creatives panel. Collaboration, he stressed, is more than just working with other artists, but with corporations, too. In August, Jet Phynx Films collaborated with the Delaware Art Museum for The Dirty Popcorn Festival, Delaware’s first all-Black film festival. “I have a philosophy: CC — Culture and Corporate. You put them together, you get a circle.”

Another filmmaker on the panel, Kenyetta Raelyn, explained why she moved from Los Angeles to Delaware during the pandemic.

“When I touched down [in Delaware], I wasn’t expecting all of the possibilities,” she said  “Jet showed all the places to film. The possibilities are limitless — but we have infrastructure to build up first.”

Could Delaware become a creative hub?

Some in the creative community believe that Delaware could become like a mini-Georgia, a hub for television and filmmaking, with its beaches, farmland and cities. (It also has forests, swamps and a surprising number of ghost towns.) That would require more than talent and local filmmakers, but a lot of support on the part of the state and local policymakers.

“In Austin, SXSW didn’t just happen ” Phynx said. “It took intentionality ”

A big issue for Delaware creatives is that resources are limited, said Gayle Dillman, cofounder of Gable Music Ventures and the Ladybug Festival.

“Resources are limited, but so are mindsets,” said Molly Giordano, executive director at the Delaware Art Museum. “When you come here, there is an abundance. People take for granted what is in their backyard.” She noted that the Delaware Division of the Arts is cultivating a statewide plan to equitably elevate the arts sector.

“We need leadership,” Dillman said. “We don’t have that in Wilmington. We have all the pieces, but we need somebody who can guide it.”

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