by Ogi Overman


Soulful country vocalist Lacy Green was an automatic for inclusion in the list of creative class members for this series, but had to be moved up the list because she almost didn’t fit the Triad residency requirement. As of last Saturday, her new address is Nashville, but area fans still claim her.

Lacy, daughter of well respected vocalist/guitarist Johnny Green (Carter Brothers, Last Resort), has had her sights set on a music career since age 13, when she released a five-song demo that showcased her potential. Last October, at age 22, she solidified that potential, releasing a full-length CD produced by Nashville songwriter-performer-producer Ronnie Bowman (Lonesome River Band).

Unlike many starry-eyed aspirants who move to Nashville only to return disillusioned, Lacy has a firm plan of attack and business model in place. Armed with a degree in religious studies and a minor in music from UNC-Chapel Hill, she has a manager and agent and has already turned down a record deal because the terms contained too many clauses and took too much of her publishing rights. Her manager, Jenny Johnson, has lined up a series of established Nashville tunesmiths for her to collaborate with, and her agent, Tony Conway, is helping her put together a band for an eventual tour.

“These first several months will be all about writing,” said Lacy. “I’m not under any illusions about instant stardom. We’ve put together a solid two-year plan for me to establish myself here. Country is a storytellers’ genre, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to it. I feel like my niche will be more toward the soul and bluesy side of country. There’s not a lot of that out there right now, and I hope that will work to my advantage because that’s what I am already predisposed to create.”

THE FACILITATOR: Christina Calabria

The block of Greensboro’s South Elm St. once known as Hamburger Square took a leap forward in October 2010 with the addition of Bin 33 restaurant. And it took a huge step toward becoming a hub of creativity by hiring Christina Calabria as its manager.

Christina immediately set about immersing Bin 33 in the town’s music and arts scene, first by initiating a Thursday night upstairs jazz jam featuring the quintet Upper Lineup.

“I felt that jazz was an important part of a town’s music scene and it was underrepresented here,” she said. “We immediately tripled our Thursday night sales and it’s been solid ever since.”

She became an active participant in the downtown First Friday celebrations, not only by having a revolving art show by local artists inside but having one set up an easel and paint outside. Frank Russell and Kelly DeSilva are currently showing. She also invites local musicians so inclined to busking to perform for tips outside.

Christina reached out to the RiverRun Film Festival this year by hosting a reception before a film at the Carolina Theatre.

She routinely makes the upstairs available for fundraisers, one of which was for the United Arts Council and featured blues stars Bob Margolin and Melva Houston. Bin 33 also hosts after parties for cast and crew of theater events and the two solstice celebrations.

If her out-of-box creativity were ever in question, she is responsible for a “Valloween” costume party combining Valentine’s Day and Halloween, a New Year’s Eve ball drop in front of the restaurant and a model jumping out of a cake for a birthday party.

Christina, a native of Philadelphia, gravitated south to attend UNCG, where she not only wound up with a triple major in communications, public relations and Spanish but an MBA from the UNCG Bryan School of Business.


As president of the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship, Sam Funchess is obviously one of the monetizers that greases the wheels of the creative machine. But the creative financing plan that he put together to fund the move from its Revolution Mill home to its new digs in the former Carolina Steel building alone qualifies him for inclusion.

To backtrack, the long-vacant, 60,000 square-foot building was donated, but it needed $2.8 million worth of renovations — “I don’t think anything had been painted or replaced in 40 years.” The City of Greensboro anted up $1.2 million, the Golden Leaf Foundation kicked in $200,000, and the Blue Bell Foundation another $6,500. The other half was raised through a new market tax-credit structure whereby the investor gets a tax credit for the entire project value in exchange for some capital that goes into the project as a loan, but after the compliance period the Nussbaum Center is able to buy the loan at a significant discount.

“We put the creative class to work right there,” quipped Sam. A banker by profession, Sam has been at the business incubator for 11 years of its quarter-century existence, the last six years as its president. He can readily recite a list of the center’s accomplishments. “We’ve housed 378 startups, and of those, 80.2 percent have graduated, meaning they’ve continued in business after they moved out. If you look at our history, over 73 percent are still in business or have been acquired.”

Sam noted that there are four criteria for admission at the center: a business plan, general liability insurance, quarterly financial reports and involvement in the community.

“We expect our people to get out and be an active part of the community,” he noted. “That will drive more business than anything else.”