Q&A: Larry Smith's Six in the City turns one

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Columbus, Ohio: a climate for creativity.

With just six words,Larry Smith believeshe can change a city.

When Larry Smith createdSix-Word Memoirs on his SMITH magazine website, he couldn't have guessed the concept would snowball into a worldwide movement of self-expression. Smith's latest creative brainchild is Six in the City, which leverages the literary device as a multi-platform tool for citywide civic engagement. Columbus is the pilot city; plans are underway to replicate the idea elsewhere.

Six in the City will mark its one-year anniversary May 19 with a reception and performance at the Wexner Center for the Arts. A storytelling slam will anchor the festivities, featuring a mix of pros, first-timers and Cbus celebrities like Hot Chicken Takeover's Joe DeLoss. Each will share his or her own Columbus-themed Six-Word Memoir and backstory in a variety of media, including improv from Available Light Theatre and creative contributions from fashion maven Celeste Malvar-Stewart and young musicians from the Arts & College Preparatory Academy. We asked Smith (who lives in Columbus with his wife, "Orange is the New Black" author Piper Kerman) to shed light on the initiative and why Columbus makes for an ideal launchpad. wexarts.org

Many people are familiar with the Six-Word Memoir format. How is Six in the City different?

I asked myself, "What if I used all the elements that makes the Six-Word Memoir work and come alive and did it in schools, at festivals, corporate retreats or workshops, at nonprofits or for-profits?" We took Six Words and infused it into one city in a connected, organizational way.

What does every Columbus resident have in common?Two things: We live in Columbus, and we breathe-we're human. There are many differences between us, but just sharing those two things is a lot. There are so many wonderful stories to share, united by one concept: we live here.

Aside from now calling Columbus home, why did you choose Columbus as the launch pad for Six in the City?

Columbus is perfect for this. It's a city on the rise. This is a city that is open to ideas and ready for this new idea, because it's already interested in engagement. The arts and culture, the food, the tech scenes are all so strong here, but there's this lingering question: "What is our city's identity?" My idea is, let's not have it told to us by government or companies. Let's tell it ourselves, six words at a time. That's powerful. Not everyone realizes how great Columbus is. Together, let's tell our story so they know.

What's the essence of Columbus, in six words?

Columbus, Ohio: a climate for creativity.