A few weeks ago the Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI) wrapped up training sessions for teams of community-engaged artists and community developers in and around the Fargo-Moorhead area. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I know from the previous sessions that the 2012 CCLI fellows who participated learned skills necessary for engaging communities and creating “community projects” that solve tough problems. The sessions give CCLI fellows strategies for working holistically on community development by building creativity, imagination and innovation within a framework of guiding principles that create the community conditions for sustainable change.
These are all big concepts, so you imagine my surprise when my first CCLI community project a few months ago began by making an “elbow pot.” An elbow pot is made with a ball of clay slapped against your elbow to depress the clay into a bowl shape. Each is one of a kind and made in only 30 seconds!
We had an hour for our community project. With our pots made, we had 59:30 left to share our elbow pots with four others in a way that helped each of us deepen the relationships in our respective work. We got to know each other more quickly than normal, and then explored how shared meaning and metaphor could guide us in creating a pot together. This required us to go deep with each other about our common ground interests, values and strategies for creating a better community. We learned how the simple art we had made could help us have shared meaning and could serve as a tradition for keeping our relationships meaningful over time.
I was amazed to have accomplished so much in just an hour. This kind of meaningful community conversation would have taken years to nurture with my neighbors, but a piece of art as simple as an elbow pot had made meaning faster than we could have without it! We had learned that art doesn’t have to be something perfect that blow’s people’s minds for it to be a catalyst for identifying what is important to people in a community.
CCLI demonstrates that creativity is central to creating the dynamics between people that are necessary to build relationships, energize creativity, spark innovation and build a community culture of effective problem-solving. In my mind, the program gives people in the creative sector the tools necessary to work in any sector as courageous leaders, mixing their adaptive, creative skills with nuts-and-bolts steps that let them manage projects toward solutions.
The Creative Community Leadership Institute is a collaboration of Intermedia Arts, the Plains Art Museum, the North Dakota State University Department of Visual Arts and the Bush Foundation. Find out more about the CCLI program and apply for future trainings at IntermediaArts.org/leadership-institute1.
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How has art helped you make connections that lead to change? Where do you think the power lies in adding creativity to the problem-solving toolkit? We want to know what you think.