This Man’s Ready To “Brand”

Allan Appel PhotoDo you know why my head is so big and so grotesque? asks the character in the play.

Answer: It’s filled with so many dreams.

One of those dreams: creatively and entrepreneurially take New Haven to “the next level”—as a place with global-class arts, design, architecture and innovative genius.

Those sentiments—and the dialogue from Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play Elephant Man—emerged at a press conference at which Mayor Toni Harp announced the appointment of a world-traveled native son, Westville-reared Andrew Wolf, to serve as the new head of the city’s Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism.

His appointment drew a crowd of 40 art cognoscenti and old friends Friday to the second floor of City Hall. There the mayor, Wolf, and Economic Development Director Matthew Nemerson a;; proclaimed that New Haven is now positioned to to make its “creative economy” compete worldwide.

“Andy will force us to think about what that will mean” and how to to get there, said Nemerson.

To do that, Wolf will have a one-person staff (himself) and a $150,000 budget in discretionary funding, according to Nemerson, to whom Wolf will report.

“That money is not the point. The whole point is to leverage other money” through partnerships, Nemerson said. “Andy is a pure idea entrepreneur. He has this global perspective from being in L.A.”

Wolf grew up in Westville, the brother of local basketball standout Jim Wolf

There, according to the bio furnished by City Hall, he has had an eclectic career that includes being past president of

Pacific Design Center, “the largest contract, residential and hospitality furnishing destination in the West; and [most recently] working with a natural foods company supervising branding and social media innovation.”

“We want to achieve a rock and roll time again,” Wolf said. “We’re going to create jobs and cultural entrepreneurs. We’re not competing with Silicon Valley, but when it comes to design, they [the world] should come here,” he said at Friday’s press conference.

Asked about what he can accomplish with staff or much of a budget, Wolf said he “relishes” the “the entrepreneurial spirit.” Then he paraphrased another text, not a literary one quite, but a thumbnail sketch of life in L.A. It’s about trying, then going screaming into your room, and closing the door; it’s about emerging; overcoming adversity and traffic, saying, “Let’s go,” hoping for success, and writing the script, he said.

In a brief survey of several arts mavens in the room, the Arts Council’s Cindy Clair, Elm Shakespeare’s Jim Andreassi, and He-Who-Goes-To-Every-Cultural-Event-in-Town Michael Morand all said they not only liked what they’d heard but were excited by it.

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posted by: Anderson Scooper on March 24, 2014  11:34am

Yes, truly exciting. A great hire by Mayor Harp.

And this isn’t so much about Andy. It’s more about us and our collective ability to sell this great little city called New Haven.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 24, 2014  12:06pm

$150.000 in discretionary funds???

The Office of Art, Culture and Tourism (formerly the Office of Cultural Affairs) doesn’t have a great track record with public art money.

Hope Mr. Wolf will look beyond money leveraging. 
There is a ton of great, fun ‘arty’ stuff that can be done by following ‘dreams’.

Maybe if the dreams of the community are put first, and we get the moneyed politics out of art we will be heading down a brighter path…...

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on March 24, 2014  1:41pm

See that look on the arts leaders’ faces?  I share their skepticism: “Branding” a city is a tell-tale sign of desperation and failure.  Just look at “New England’s Rising Star.”  This is 100% Nemerson Nonsense.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 24, 2014  2:12pm

Jill the Pill,

I concur.

‘Branding’ and ‘Place Making” are the new empty buzzwords of the struggling art administration industry.

It would be nice if we had something to brand that was built from inside the community, rather than dreamt up in a board room. 

But that takes vision and committment…...

posted by: alex on March 24, 2014  2:24pm

Another great appointment by Mayor Harp—hopefully the skeptics will start to see this, and come around to see how good of a job she is doing.

Good luck Andy!

posted by: wendy1 on March 24, 2014  8:25pm

What this city needs is lower taxes and a dose of reality not a babyboomer brander.  We need more cops and firemen with decent pay and guaranteed fair pensions.  We need housing for the growing number of homeless here, some sleeping in the snow.  There is abysmal poverty here, no jobs, home foreclosures.  Are you kidding me with this guy??

posted by: anonymous on March 25, 2014  12:42pm

Before we do branding, we need to hire local youth from disadvantaged city neighborhoods to clean our streets and parks. They are facing an 80% unemployment rate.

We used to do this, but those jobs were cut.  Guess who suffers from the cuts?  Not the suburban baby boomer contingent in Westville and Woodbridge.

In addition to this being a matter of fairness, the disadvantaged parts of our city aren’t going anywhere until minimum standards of cleanliness are met.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on March 25, 2014  7:02pm

Won’t comment until I see how this man does. Hope he does as well as Barbara did. She put her whole heart and soul into her mission. Time will tell and show.

posted by: sandstorm on March 31, 2014  11:14am

I have known Andrew since he was Andy-read that to mean for many years. He is also a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and has worked in philanthropic foundation work in addition to the venues outlined in the article. His parentage is a mother who was an interior designer and a father who was a craftsman. He will complement his talent and wisdom with his love of New Haven. If he succeeds in making us the place in which he would have wanted to stay, his mission will be accomplished! Welcome home, Andy