Creativity x Community = Change

The other day, I had a conversation with a friend who was contemplating a new direction for her art. Lindsay is a fine artist, author, educator and a crafter. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. She also received a prestigious grant to organize a large community art program involving thousands of knitters from around the world. She has taught adults in a world-renowned art institution and major universities.

With all her impressive achievements, I still consider Lindsay to be typical of artists today who exercise their multiple capabilities for personal fulfillment and largely for practical economic reasons. Artists, especially those with families to support, have to secure at least two or three jobs. If these jobs match their talents and passions, then all the better for the communities that benefit from their work. Fortunately, I live in a city that has grown to value their artists. Chicago is a multi-cultural melting pot of artistic talent celebrated in the art museums, live theater, musical and dance concerts, galleries, humanities festivals, and the list goes on.

Although the ability of the arts to bring about cultural and economic vitality is well promoted, beyond this, I believe that the arts is the key to preserving humankind. Art holds up the mirror that reflects the truth about what we do as a society and its consequences. Art provides us with the context for having the clarity and the courage to ask the difficult questions and wrestle with them. It can be an arduous journey, but it is necessary for finding real answers.

Artists create. And they can create from nothing. What this world needs moving forward are more people like my artist friend Lindsay who finds that it is in her nature to pull from her many facets as author, educator and crafter all the necessary skills, ideas and inspiration to create something that will benefit her community.

Imagine that we had at least one artist on every block of this city, of this country, of this earth. Imagine what we could accomplish by multiplying that amount of talent by each artist’s stretch of their imagination. Given that opportunity, what can we as a civilized society accomplish? What can we create? The problems of this world can be overwhelming. The only way we can begin to wrap our minds around them is by wrapping them with our imagination–with ART–to see what’s possible and to boldly reach for it.

To an artist, the most important question is “What if?” What if the artist on my block got together and collaborated with other artists in my neighborhood? What if we went to the alderman with an artistic approach to address a specific problem in our ward? What if we grow this to be a city-wide initiative? What if Lindsay found this to be the new direction for her art?

Now, more than ever, is the time to ask the hard question. And you may find the answer in your block living next door.

Which Story Will You Vote For?

As we head to the polls, I’m reminded of the Huffington Post article in July 2012 written by Arianna Huffington where she mentions President Obama’s interview with Charlie Rose. According to Huffington, the interview got really interesting when the conversation turned to what the president considered the biggest mistake of his first term. He said, “…it was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. The nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”

Without labeling all the rhetoric we’ve heard during this presidential campaign, storytelling is essential in communicating ideas and values, and in leading a country.

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself to a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience,” says screenwriting guru Robert McKee. They are “the currency of human contact.” Or, as film producer Peter Guber, says in his book Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, “Telling purposeful stories is certainly the most efficient means of persuasion in everyday life, the most effective way of translating ideas into action. The stories our leaders tell us matter probably almost as much as the stories our parents tell us as children, because they orient us to what is, what could be, and what should be. Their stories help us to understand how they view the world and the values they hold sacred.”

Scientific research has shown that humans are naturally wired for stories. We can best understand and remember information if it is wrapped in a story. Story gives it human context, meaning and purpose. Only then can we translate this into action. And competent leadership is about ultimately mobilizing people into action.

As you cast your ballot, ask yourself: Which candidate placed the issues in a narrative that helped me to better understand how they can be resolved? Which candidate told a compelling story about their vision for the future and made me feel optimistic about being a part of it?

The choices are overwhelming but if you were to see it only one way, I hope you will vote for the story that will provide the best opportunity for our children to realize their dreams so that down the road, they can tell their own stories of trust, hope, unity and peace.

Coming up next week:

November 13: Write Your Story for Video
5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Fine Arts Building
410 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

November 15: Engage Your Donors with a Compelling Story
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Mayslake Peabody Estate
1717 W. 31st Street
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Host: West Suburban Philanthropic Network

November 16: Create Your Compelling & Memorable Elevator Pitch
11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Letizia’s Fiore Ristorante
2456 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647