Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Fueling the Creative Economy Part II: Call to Graphic Designers, ‘Get Involved’

January 30, 2012 in Blog Post | Comments (0)

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Posted By: Graphic Design

In my January 3rd article, Fueling the Creative Economy I wrote about the appointment of Joe Bookchin to the position of director of the Office of the Creative Economy in Vermont, as well as creative economy initiatives in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and their importance to our industry’s continued health and development.

Subsequently, I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by Jean Maginnis, Founder & Executive Director,Maine Center for Creativity and Christine Harris, CEO Christine Harris Connections and Executive AdvisorCreative Alliance Milwaukee who informed me of their respective creative alliances as well as others, and the newly formed National Creativity Network, an organization that believes in fostering creativity as being key to innovation and economic success in America right now.

They, along with Margaret Collins, Executive Director, Center for Creative Economy Piedmont Triad, North Carolina Susan McCalmont, President, Creative Oklahoma, Elizabeth Murphy, Consulting Director, Creative New Jersey, Dave Baldwin, President, Aquarian Technology Systems, Ltd, Creative Ohio and George Tzougros, National Creativity Network Chairperson and Executive Director, Wisconsin Arts Board were gracious enough to grant me an interview where they responded to four questions about their ongoing initiatives:

1. What are your top/high priority initiatives for stimulating creative economy in your region?

2. What would you say are the biggest challenges regionally or otherwise for creative industries right now? Across the board the answer to this question was current economic conditions and education.

3. How can graphic designers be more involved in supporting industry growth and health?

4. There seems to be a commoditization and devaluing trend in creative services. Part of this can probably be attributed to economic pressures. What advice would you give graphic designers to counter this?

Jean Maginnis, Maine Center for Creativity: Definitely Art All Around®, a major public art project that pairedSprague Energy corporation with the arts community “to transform 16 oil storage tanks on Portland harbor into an integrated ‘canvas’ of color and design…” with the added dimension of being visible from a Google Earth perspective. Part of the project was a blind International Design Competition, with a panel of nine jurors from Maine and countries including Spain, Germany and Canada, which received 560 proposals from 80 countries. Five semi-finalists received a $10,000 cash prize and the finalist; Jaime Gili received an additional $20,000. Maginnis described experiencing an “aha moment” when biking with her husband in Bug Light park in South Portland thinking about the concept of “think tanks” and wondering how to “capture the public imagination with a large arts & industry collaboration” and suddenly seeing the oil tanks as potential canvasses.

So far they have raised $950,000 towards their 1.3 million dollar goal and are in the final phase of painting eight oil tanks and tops. There is an additional $350,000 to raise in order to paint the additional tanks. Maginnis also spoke about the importance of building infrastructure programs and their well-attended “Creative Toolbox” series of presentations in partnership with the University of Southern Maine designed to provide creatives with skills, resources and information to succeed economically and Pecha Kucha nights where designers and creative people can meet, network and share their work.

Margaret Collins, Center for Creative Economy, North Carolina: For Collins, what started as a Piedmont Triad workforce development grant, after four years has evolved into the Center for Creative Economy. Based in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad encompassing Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point, in the middle of the state, the Center for Creative Economy’s focus is on creating a “catalyst for innovation” by getting business and creatives working together, connecting creatives to business networks and vice versa. Collins’ defines her role as “being an advocate for creatives here [North Carolina].”

To that end, some of the Center’s high priority projects are their Innovation Summits, designed to bring creative and business people together, Triad Design Leadershop, customized creative workshops exploring design thinking, “Creatini” themed networking events that aggregate creative community, feature guest speakers and create a space for idea sharing and the Idea Index “a fully interactive online creative directory featuring artists, designers, and other creative professionals in the Piedmont Triad who want to showcase their portfolios, videos, and creative work.” One of the more unique features of the Idea Index differentiating it from other creative directories is the ability to submit and respond to RFPs online as well as Panels, the community component encouraging dialogue and exchange between business and creative users. The Idea Index actualizes Collins’ intention to provide “robust infrastructure” and “bridge communities by putting them in dialogue so that people can understand the value creatives can bring.”

Elizabeth Murphy, Creative New Jersey: Murphy, representing the youngest organization of the group, related how last June the founding members of Creative New Jersey held a statewide open-space Call To Collaboration where 150 leaders from a wide range of sectors assembled to answer the central question: “How can creativity and innovation revitalize New Jersey?” The success of this event has set in motion the development of a statewide series of Community Creativity Convenings.

These self-directed conferences include a broad multi-generational and sector demographic of “arts leaders, educators, business leaders, mayors, philanthropists, sustainability folks, students, and tech” and are designed to stimulate a “ground up” movement to “…foster creativity, innovation and sustainability and to exploit how the creative industries can have a transformative effect on the economy and people’s lives.” As well as encourage connections between nonprofits, governments, businesses and philanthropic organizations. “When we meet at the intersection of seemingly disparate disciplines, we have the opportunity for our own ideas to clash and combine with others, thereby encouraging an explosion of potentially groundbreaking, new ideas.”

Christine Harris, Creative Alliance Milwaukee:
 Harris articulated Creative Milwaukee’s high priority asconnecting on a government level to address recognition that this [creative economy] is a cluster and to promote self-identification [within the creative community] as a cluster. As well as, working closely with state economic development corporation to get recognition as a cluster worthy of investment. George Tzougros further underscored Harris’ point by stating that “since government had been built for the industrial age [the value of creative economy] tended to appear less substantial. David Baldwin commented at this point as well, referencing the World Future Society, the Center for Communities of the Future and describing the overall shift away from the industrial economy toward a “transformation of all systems and the emergence of a new Creative Molecular Economy.”

Susan McCalmont, Creative Oklahoma: Echoing Baldwin’s sentiments, McCalmont cited education, commerce and culture and how to build a pipeline to creative economy in Oklahoma as being among Creative Oklahoma’s top priorities. Some of the guiding questions for her were “What are barriers to economic growth?, What are the barriers to quality of life?, What are our strengths in Oklahoma?” She described her work with marketers, graphic designers and public television to establish Oklahoma as a creative center in the minds of local businesses, who traditionally may have looked outside the state for their creative resources through major events such as the Oklahoma Creativity Forum.

She also talked about initiatives to retain talent in film and music, areas of particular strength in Oklahoma by creating jobs around those industries. She described a creativity ambassador initiative, a group of prominent creative professionals who through “public service announcements, performances, speaking engagements, and sharing of their knowledge in their respective fields” help change perceptions of Oklahoma both within and outside the state. On the workforce development side McCalmont talked about modular learning units offered to businesses and job fairs connecting university students with businesses as well as grants and awards programs.

David Baldwin, Creative Ohio: Creative Ohio is just forming as a result of Baldwin’s attendance at theCreativity World Forum in Oklahoma City in 2010. Baldwin describes Creative Ohio as self-organizing and not honing in on any one aspect of the arts or focusing solely on the economic benefit, but the transformational benefit of building a [creative] network and celebrating [creative] activity.

Whereas responses regarding individual organizational goals and initiatives varied, responses to the other three questions of challenges for the creative industries, how designers can be more involved in supporting industry growth and health, and how designers can counter the trend toward the commoditization of their services were relatively similar.

Poor economic conditions causing companies to tighten their belts on creative spending, sluggish investment growth and lack of organizational structure were among the main challenges to creative industries cited, along with a lack of understanding of design and innovation having organizational value as opposed to being merely technical products, and the importance of client education regarding this added value.

Response to the question “How can graphic designers be more involved in supporting industry growth and health?” was practically unilateral—get involved in the creative community, advocate for creative services,speak or write on creativity and an often overlooked but equally important part of the equation—communicatetraining and education needs back to academic institutions.

Lastly, in response to the question of how to counter the commoditization of the creative industry the answer was overwhelmingly “build your brand,” “build relationships,” and be able to present the business case tosupport your value. Dave Baldwin, in particular, suggested that the transformation being felt in graphic design might be an opportunity for those designers who are willing to “cross silos” and take an entrepreneurial approach.

If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more here is a list of organizations working to support and encourage creative economy. By no means is it exhaustive so please feel free to post any I may have left out.

Berkshire Creative
Center for Creative Economy Winston-Salem/Greensboro, North Carolina
Creative Albuquerque
Creative Alliance Milwaukee
Creative New Jersey
Creative Oklahoma
Maine Center for Creativity
Mt. Auburn Associates has been profiling the creative economy since 2000. Reports from all of their work is on their website,
RTS, Inc, has been doing creative economy research since 2000. Reports are on their website,

Oklahoma Creativity Forum 2011 & NCN Meeting

October 12, 2011 in Blog Post | Comments (0)

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Dear Friends of the National Creativity Network,

Creative Oklahoma would like to invite you to join us for an exciting event on November 1st in Norman, Oklahoma — the Oklahoma Creativity Forum 2011!   Please find more information on the line up of speakers at

We have several NCN partners speaking on a variety of subjects including:  Peter Gamwell, Jean Hendrickson, and Dan Hunter. Additionally, on Monday, October 31st, we will have an informal afternoon gathering of any National Creativity Network interested parties to discuss assessment and tracking the growth of creative industries in the US.  This afternoon session, “Navigating the Creative Economy: Is There Value in a National Definition?” will be from 2 – 5 pm and facilitated by Christine Harris of Creative Milwaukee Alliance. The purpose of the NCN event will be to understand the scope of how the creative industries are being defined across the country.

Both events will be held at the Embassy Suites Norman-Hotel & Conference Center in Norman, Oklahoma, a short 15-minute cab ride from the Oklahoma City Will Rogers airport.
We will also have a special a informal social gathering for out of town guests and speakers the evening of the 31st.

Please sign up for the Forum at:

Click here to book hotel rooms at the Embassy up until next Friday, October 18th.  

Hope to see you there!

Artsmarts: Why Cutting Arts Funding Is Not a Good Idea

February 13, 2011 in Blog Post | Comments (0)


Funding the arts funds scientific innovation and economic development.
Published on February 14, 2011 by Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein in Imagine That!
Congress is once again making plans to gut the National Endowment for the Arts, so it is time for us to post more data supporting the arts. In previous posts, we’ve argued that the arts are essential for the development of scientific imagination. (See A Missing Piece in the Economic StimulusArts and Crafts: Keys to Scientific CreativityArts at the Center of Creative Education). Here we argue that the arts stimulate economic development by fostering scientific and technological innovation.

Let’s start with a few inspiring quotes about the value of arts from CEOs of major technological companies:
“At Boeing, innovation is our lifeblood. The arts inspire innovation by leading us to open our minds and think in new ways about our lives – including the work we do, the way we work, and the customers we serve,” writes W. James McNerney, Jr., Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Company. (1)

“We are a company founded on innovation and believe the arts, like science and engineering, both inspire us and challenge our notions of impossibility,” says George David, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, United Technologies Corporation (1)

“The arts foster creativity, and creativity is central to our business strategy,” comments Randall L. Tobias, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Eli Lilly and Company. “Indeed, we believe there is a strong link between the creativity nurtured by the arts and scientific creativity. If our scientists are stimulated through their involvement with the arts, then it’s ultimately good for our business — and our community.” (2)

Helge W. Wehmeier, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bayer Corporation agrees: “A good well-rounded educationmust include the study of both the arts and the sciences. As a company we explore the synergies between arts and science. Of all subjects, the arts and sciences are the closest and most interrelated. They offer complementary ways of understanding the same object or event… They also teach critical thinking, creativity and curiosity – skills that make for an educated and innovative work force.” (3)


Music composed by Nobel Prize winner Albert Michelson

Music composed by Nobel Prize winner Albert Michelson

Unfortunately, these observations by our industrial leaders, and many similar statements that can be found in the references at the end of this post, seem to be insufficient to convince Congress to support the arts. So a group of us at Michigan State University (*) have undertaken a study of the relationship of arts and crafts experience to scientific and technological innovation. 

In our initial research, we contacted scientists and engineers who graduated from MSU’s Honors College between 1990 and 1995. We asked them to take a survey about their childhood, young adult, and mature adult participation in various arts and crafts and we enquired about various measures of their innovativeness, including the number of patents they had obtained and the number of companies they had helped to found.

Our findings amply validate the observations of the CEOs quoted above.
The data our scientists and engineers provided to us demonstrate that the more arts and crafts a person masters, the greater their probability of becoming an inventor or innovator. In the first place, Honors College graduates in the sciences, technology, engineering and math were three to eight times as likely to have had lessons in any particular art or craft as the average American. Those Honors College graduates who have founded companies or produced licensed patents have even higher exposures to arts and crafts than the average Honors College scientist or engineer.

Take home message? The more arts and crafts experience our scientists and inventors have, the more likely they will be to generate creative capital of clear economic value. Invest in arts and crafts and it comes back to you many-fold.

Virginia Apgar, whose “Apgar score” provide critical health information about ev

Virginia Apgar, whose “Apgar score” provide critical health information about every newborn baby, making one of her violins.


Which arts should we invest in? All of them! While almost all arts correlated with increased success as a scientist or inventor in our study, lifelong involvement in dance, composing music, photography, woodwork, metal work, mechanics, electronics and recreational computer programming were particularly associated with development of creative capital.

And invest early! A particularly striking finding was that early hands-on experience with arts and crafts was critical to continuing participation in these arts and crafts. And continuing participation in arts and crafts across a lifetime was one of the strongest correlates to generating patents and new companies.

The policy implications of our results point to government support of the arts as an economic stimulus. Yet President Obama has just recommended cutting the Department of Education arts education to ZERO in 2012. ZERO!!!! Adult innovators are able to invent because they have extensive experience making things starting as young children. Arts and crafts skills are the source of that inventiveness. The arts may not be rocket science; but they make rocket science possible.

In fact, our Honors College scientists and engineers reached this conclusion themselves. Eighty-one percent of the respondents to our survey recommend arts and crafts education as a useful or even essential background for a scientific or engineering innovator. Many provided commentaries just like those of the CEOs quoted above:

One wrote: Arts and crafts encourage experimentation – there’s no one right way to do art. It encourages one to break out of a “follow the steps to get some result” mold. I feel like I am adept at getting my bearings in unfamiliar situations and determining a direction to follow. This is very helpful when troubleshooting, where the unexpected happens all the time.

Another agreed: After these many years in the classroom, I see those that have music and arts background seem to do very well in physics and often times head to engineering careers.

A third argued that experience with arts and crafts, allows you to explore materials in a different way, figure out how to put things together, try to do things differently.

While causality cannot be determined by these preliminary findings, the combination of data and personal testimony strongly indicate that arts and crafts education and ongoing participation are correlated with economic development of creative capital. Eliminating arts and crafts programs will certainly harm education in these areas, and will almost certainly have serious negative economic consequences as well.

Hobble the arts and crafts and you hobble innovation. Hobble innovation and our economy will suffer. Conversely, invest in arts and crafts and every dollar will stimulate the economy not only today, but through innovation a host of tomorrows.

© Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein 2011