Before I get started with this critique of what is actually a very lovely community, you should understand that Serenbe was up against an impossible comparison. I heard this: Serenbe is a little town south of Atlanta that was built around the arts. And of course, what came immediately to mind? Madrid, New Mexico. My favorite town, so far, in all of America. So, understand that Serenbe had no chance. That’s as fair as I can be.
My intrepid friend Larren, who has traveled the whole U.S. on a mission to visit every state capital, was the bearer of this tip about this heretofore unheard of (by me) Shangri-La of Georgia, and she was my partner on this journey. For the record, she agreed with my opinion of the place, too, and she’s never been to Madrid. So … for what that’s worth.
Here’s the thing, Serenbe gets a lot of things right: sustainability built into every building and every process; community centered design; perfect aesthetics. It’s truly a beautiful place, a place I’d love to spend time, based solely on aesthetics. And it IS a community built around the arts. But here’s the problem. There’s no art. Well, there are a few photographers and a few galleries, but the photographers serve what is I’m certain an extremely healthy and expensive wedding machine within Serenbe, and the galleries … I suppose they service the people who own the community’s half million to million-plus dollar homes.
And therein lies the real problem: very few artists could afford to live in Serenbe. The homes are simply too expensive. A community of cottages is currently going up that remedies that problem somewhat: the houses start around $250,000. But are we really going to sequester our artists in the poor people’s cottage ghetto … on the edge of town? If anyone asked me, and obviously they won’t, which is why I BLOG, I would say, if you want your community to have a real artistic soul, if you want artists to come and create art, you build real loft spaces (not the three story, $450,000 “lofts” in downtown Serenbe). You make it affordable. You offer grants. You offer facilities that artists need. In fact, here’s what you do. You check out the work of Artspace, and you do THAT. Exactly.
Anyway, it’s sad really, because Serenbe is quite lovely. If it had the soul of an art community, rather than just the appearance of one, I’d give a life there some very serious thought.
Here’s a little tour of the town: