You can look good, go fast and be eccentric (all at the same time). Given the experience I had this weekend at Portland Soap Box Derby, it’s clear there are a bunch of people in Portland who combine all three. An eclectic crowd, including some of our city’s finest creators, was out in flying colors and flying contraptions risking life and limb as they whizzed down and around the pavement bisecting Mt. Tabor Park, an extinct volcanic cinder cone. It was all about performance, artistic expression and sustainability. The latter ingredient was important, since you needed to survive your descent with your vehicle intact and, of course, the human powered approach to transit was required. Beyond that each team had to design within the democratic constraint of not being able to spend more than $300 on their contraption.
The results were sensational. Perhaps it has to do with what Richard Florida refers to as the “creative class.â€? In his book entitled The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida describes a society in which the creative ethos is increasingly dominant. His thinking is particularly relevant as it applies to contemporary urban settings that will likely be at the forefront of realizing a new, vibrant approach to the 21st century city.
Maybe I’m taking Florida’s thinking too literally but The Portland Soap Box Derby was, in my mind, a clear manifestation of the creative spirit he’s describing. Not only that, I think it’s a microcosm of the creative spirit that Portland itself is infused with. Equal parts enthusiasm, wild-ass creativity and genuine joy.