CREATIVITY AT WORK
Interviews conducted for American Creativity Association
Note: The American Creativity Association does not endorse the content or position or policies recommended or reflected in the following interview. We publish these interviews as a public service to ACA's membership and others interested in the many ways by which creativity is applied in important sectors of our society.
The Creative America Project
interviewed by Sherry Minnard Rappaport
Tom has been an advocate for creativity in community since the early 90’s including positions in Chicago: Director of Cultural Development, Member of Mayor Daley’s Digital Divide Committee, column author ‘Creative Economy for online magazine ‘Newtopia,’ Fellow in Arts and Culture at DePaul University’s College of Commerce Ryan Center for Creativity and Innovation, teaches ‘Creativity and Public Policy’ at DePaul’s School for New Learning.
“I became a creativity activist in the early 1990’s when the National Endowment for the Arts came under attack. I was working as an actor at the Pegasus Players in Chicago, when my part in the “culture wars” became evident. I quit my job and worked to prevent the destruction of our country’s creative potential by the just forming Christian Coalition. The attacks were so shocking to me because the government was only subsidizing Arts to the tune of about $160 million dollars a year. It was almost as though post Cold War, members of the greater community were seeking some organizing principal around which to form and gain strength. We know now that members of that coalition have dispersed around the country, gained seats in local governments and boards, and are shifting the course of creative growth by stifling emergent artistic contributions to all venues: education, business and politics.”
“During the Culture Wars I came to believe that the ability to ‘be’ and ‘do’ creative is closely aligned with the ability to ‘be’ and ‘do’ democracy because imagination always precedes implementation, no matter what field you’re in. Before you can change the world, you better have a picture of what that new world looks like, and have the skills to work toward it. The idea of Creative America is to get people who work in the creative industries, inspire and train them to run for local office in 2006 and beyond. Our long term objective is to elevate creativity to a national value and priority within the next 20 years.”
“To do this we create and host workshops in theatres around the country with members of the Creative Class and discover together how and why to run for office as a creative champion. If we’ve prepared them well with position papers, skills and a solid foundation, they will be pleasing to their constituency. The learning is entirely experiential. A successful method of promoting creativity is by producing events that blend elements of entertainment, learning, fun, inspiration and a call to action. Call it ‘edutainment’ or inter-disciplinary special event production. I've produced over 100 different sorts of events and experiences drawing from my experiences as an actor and producer.”
“For instance I worked recently with a 9-billion dollar financial services firm in the Midwest who reached out for some strategic planning consulting. I developed a reenactment of the battle of Little Round Top in the Civil War and took the employees and leaders right out into the field. They heard the story of Colonel Chamberlain’s last ditch effort to save his battalion against the rebels with no ammunition and a flank built nearly entirely of deserters. He was able to: equip them with problem-solving skills, inspire them to join the fight for the principal instead of the mandate, and propose a valid picture of how some innovative maneuvering could serve to outperform the enemy. “Six bayonets and charge!” he shouted to his men who swung down the hill toward the rebels in the formation of a hinged fence, overwhelming a quickly dispersed, flummoxed and fatigued enemy battalion, fully armed with plenty ammunition.”
“We can’t lecture to the learner any more, if we ever could. No matter a person’s learning preference, to run for office requires exposure at a visceral level to some of the challenges that will befall them on their journey. Staging this learning in a theatre allows them a level of role playing they might experience when the stakes for success are too high, during their campaign. I think getting creative champions into office around the country will be my biggest contribution as a Creative. If you’d like Creative America to come to your state, contact your state’s Cultural Council and suggest they act as host. This is the most logical point of entry for training creative champions for local governments.”
Things You Can Do Now...
(1) Join Tom's email list maintained by Yahoo Groups and be the first to learn of news and special events. The list that is open to the public and is accessed at:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/creativeamerica
(2) Follow Tom's journey as a creative organizer in his blog, "The Politics of Imagination," at http://www.newtopiamagazine.net/blog/Polimagination.php
(3) Read more about Tom's project in the recent Chicago Sun-Times column which discusses the project - http://www.creativeamerica.us/12press.html