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In Conversation: An Interview with Scarlet Estelle Hernandez

With a rich history in the music industry dating back to when she was just 15 – including an impressive 4-year stint in radio broadcasting – Scarlet Estelle Hernandez stands tall as a seasoned and admired industry figure. Beyond her dual roles, she's a sought-after panel moderator, an experienced adjunct professor, and a magnetic on-air personality.

Scarlet's approach to economic development and placemaking is as multifaceted as her career. She leverages her extensive experience in the creative sector to envision and implement strategies that transform urban spaces into vibrant cultural hubs.

Her work in repurposing underutilized spaces and fostering collaborative environments has not only benefited Philadelphia Soul/R&B artist Max Swan and the members at REC but has also had a substantial impact on over 1000 creatives and counting. In 2022, she became a proud member of the Philadelphia Recording Academy. In her spare time, Scarlet dives into the podcasting world with her show, "Sugar, We're Going In," where she delves into the history of Fall Out Boy and Hip Hop.


Sally: Can you share how your journey, from your early days with Bowery Presents and Live Nation to now steering the ship at REC, has shaped your perspective on creative spaces and their indispensable role for local artists and communities?

Working with some of the global music titans has affirmed my belief that while resources play a crucial role in supporting artists, the real nurturing happens within their immediate community. Almost every artist will reminisce about that little group of believers who championed them long before the world took notice. Wearing the hat of an artist manager, I find myself in a continuous cycle of learning about innovative resources and strategies that can amplify artists, irrespective of where they stand in their journey.

Sally: With REC as a hub for so many artists and creators, how do you craft an environment that promotes their success? Are there any particular strategies that stand out in your approach?

The magic really starts when artists can authentically connect and collaborate. By providing a safe and inspiring environment, we're essentially just laying the groundwork – it's the artists who build the community. Our mantra for success is simple – we win when members actively collaborate, share, learn, and grow together. Initiatives like Open House and Room to Room are prime examples. By positioning members as team leaders, we foster an environment of mutual learning. We've witnessed some heartwarming transformations – from reserved members finding their voice to awe-inspiring collaborations born out of these engagements.

Sally: What insights can you share for cities aiming to tap into the power of creative spaces, both for economic growth and to uplift their local artist communities?

Financial Incentives: Look at cities like Atlanta. Introducing grants and tax breaks can be a powerful magnet to attract and retain creative talent.

Mixed-Use Developments: Let's repurpose those closed-down buildings and reimagine what they can offer to the creative community.

Partnerships: Collaboration is key. Partnering can unlock a plethora of opportunities, making it a win-win for everyone involved.

Networking Opportunities: Transform museums and parks into networking hubs. These are untapped resources that can be pivotal in fostering connections.

Art in Public Spaces: Envision airports adorned with local art – it's a brilliant way to immerse everyone in the city's rich culture.

Creative Tourism: Integrating concerts with local businesses, ensuring convenient accommodation, enhancing public transport, and gathering feedback can truly make a city the go-to creative destination.

Sally: In your view, what are the critical ingredients for crafting creative spaces that resonate with communities and spark economic and cultural growth?

Inclusivity/Diversity: Foster a space that's a melting pot of diverse perspectives. It's the amalgamation of these unique viewpoints that sparks groundbreaking ideas.

Engagement: Keep the communication channels open. Regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and personalized communication can foster a genuine bond.

Resources: Equip your community with the right tools. They need not be top-of-the-line but must be dependable.

Education: Invest in continual learning. Whether it's office hours, partnerships, or classes, knowledge sharing is critical.

Innovation: Challenge the status quo. Embrace change and adapt.

Accessibility/Affordability: Ensure everyone, irrespective of their background or financial standing, can access and afford these spaces.

Adaptability/Flexibility: The world is in flux. Being agile and responsive is the only way forward.

Sally: Could you shine a light on a REC initiative that has particularly struck a chord with the local creative community?

Absolutely! "Black Music City" is a project we're incredibly proud of. It's a partnership between REC and Philadelphia public music radio stations WXPN-FM and WRTI-FM. This initiative honors the rich tapestry of Philadelphia's Black music history. Last year alone, we awarded 40 talented individuals with grants totaling $100,000. Their creations were then showcased to our community, creating ripples of inspiration. Another initiative close to our hearts is "Making Space: Reimagining Recreation." This endeavor transforms local recreational centers into hotbeds of innovation, allowing budding entrepreneurs to kickstart their dreams, all while giving back to the upcoming generation.

Sally: Lastly, for communities on the brink of exploring creative spaces as conduits for growth and connection, what's your golden advice?

Remember, artists have always been the lifeblood of any community, and they'll continue to be. They're not seeking charity but support. By ensuring the basics – a secure, affordable venue to gather and create – you're laying the foundation for a prosperous future. In an era where art education often takes a backseat, providing a haven for art not only nurtures mental well-being but can catapult your city into becoming the next creative epicenter. A simple act of support can level the playing field, inspiring generations to dream bigger and bolder.

Unleash Your Creative Potential with REC Philly! 🌟 Dive into a world where ambitious creators like Scarlet Estelle Hernandez, the voice behind Sugar, We're Going In podcast, come together to learn, work, and play. Be part of this vibrant community – secure your spot on our exclusive membership waitlist now! Join REC Philly today.


Want to transform your community through creative placemaking? For communities looking to implement impactful creative economic placemaking strategies, or those needing guidance on cultural asset mapping, strategy plans, and other vital economic development consulting, help is at hand. Reach out to the experts at [email protected] and let's shape the future of creative spaces together.


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