Imagination Conversation Report: Ringling College of Art and Design, Florida

Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) is proud to note that four Imagination Conversations have taken place since October, the last of which happened on Monday, November 7, in Florida. Ringling College of Art and Design hosted the Conversation, subtitled “A Start-Up,” and plans to hold more in the future.

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Imagination Conversation Report: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Virginia

The Virginia Imagination Conversation, hosted by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, took place on October 19, 2011, at its Center for Education in Vienna, VA. Wolf Trap is one of several organizations currently working with Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) to plan a policy meeting with the U.S. Department of Education that will happen in early 2012 in Washington, D.C., so we were especially eager to see the results of this event.

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Imagination Conversation Report: Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Vermont

Image by Silik*

The Vermont Imagination Conversation—one of three Conversations held around the country this month!—took place on October 14, 2011, at FlynnSpace, part of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington.

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Imagination Conversation Report: Southern Utah University, Utah

Image by Asher Swan

The first Utah Imagination Conversation, hosted by Southern Utah University (SUU), took place on August 16, 2011, in Cedar City. Held as a Faculty Convocation, it coincided with the launch of SUU’s Center for Creativity and Innovation. The Cedar City Daily News reported on the gathering.

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Imagination Conversation Report: Metropolitan Group, Oregon


The Oregon Imagination Conversation, hosted by Metropolitan Group, took place on October 4, 2011, at the Ziba Auditorium in Portland. Metropolitan Group, an agency that provides strategic and creative services to social purpose organizations, actually helped Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) design the national Imagination Conversations initiative—work for which we remain very grateful.

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Imagination Conversation Report: The Meridian Institute, Indiana

Here’s another in our series of posts about previous Imagination Conversations. Over the course of the project, we’ve seen that a Conversation can be, among many other things, a great way to bring together a cross section of influential figures from a given state—people whose paths might not ordinarily intersect—to exchange imaginative ideas and reach conclusions that have statewide impact. The Indiana event I report on below was just such a unifying and action-oriented occasion. It may serve as an instructive model for anyone interested in using a Conversation as a rallying point for social or economic advancement at the state level.

The Imagine Indiana Leadership Summit, hosted by The Meridian Institute, happened on October 12 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s (IMA) Tobias Theater. Its objective was “to advance policy recommendations…to increase Indiana’s and America’s capacity for innovation” while highlighting culture’s role as a source of innovation. A steering committee made up of heads of state cultural, educational, and economic organizations—such as the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indy Partnership—prepared an action agenda over the course of six months. This agenda was presented, refined, and voted on at the well-attended gathering; the results are being delivered to key figures in the state for implementation. In addition to keynote presentations by Council on Competitiveness President and CEO Deborah Wince-Smith and IMA Director and CEO Maxwell Anderson, three panels—on culture, education, and economics, respectively—occurred during the day.

Meridian Institute President and CEO Dr. Scott Massey remarks, “Imagine Indiana engaged a cross section of the state’s top leadership, increased awareness of the importance of culture, and led to the creation of an innovation action agenda that can improve the state’s future.” Its many diverse recommendations include: depreciating Indiana students’ college tuition if they remain in the state to work there; using the alumni networks of Indiana universities to foster business alliances among former students; and including cultural leaders in Indiana’s economic and educational strategy organizations.

View the day’s proceedings on The Meridian Institute’s YouTube channel.

More Imagination Conversation Reports will appear soon!

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Imagination Conversation Report: Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

Here’s another in our series of posts about previous Imagination Conversations. Ohio is one state that has taken up the concept and really run with it. Back in the spring of 2009, I made a presentation to educators and arts organizations there. This led to a series of brown bag lunch panels in which Ohio Department of Education (ODE) curriculum, communications, and policy directors discussed the role of imagination in their own work and teaching, with their staffs joining in as audience members. Since then, ODE, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) have together hosted three more Conversations. The first took place in Columbus on December 5, 2009, and the second was held at Oberlin College on May 15, 2010, as part of the OhioDance Festival. As for the third:

The October 14 Ohio Imagination Conversation addressed the policy goals of the overall initiative by focusing on American education reform. Hosted by CMA, which offered attendees a sneak peek of its new Center of Creativity, the event boasted a roster of prominent panelists: Antwone Fisher, writer, speaker, and subject of Denzel Washington’s 2002 directorial debut; Michael Weiss, President and CEO of clothing retailer Express, Inc.; and fashion designer and Project Runway finalist Althea Harper, among others. Dr. Steven Seidel, director of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Arts in Education Program, moderated. What made the day’s structure unique was the public response to the panel by Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, who discussed how imagination, creativity, and innovation relate to the 21st-century learning environments President Obama wants to develop.

CMA Director of Education Cindy Foley says, “The panel was almost poetic in the way they wove their viewpoints together.” Commenting on Cunningham’s mention of the possibility that 50% of American teachers will retire in the next decade, Foley adds, “The pressure is on the next generation of teachers to foster the creativity our children will need to succeed.”

View the day’s proceedings on CMA’s YouTube channel.

More Imagination Conversation Reports will appear soon!

Click here to view all Imagination Conversation Reports.

Imagination Conversation Report: Big Thought, Texas

Here’s another in our series of posts about Imagination Conversations. There are certain organizations around the U.S. that are, like Lincoln Center Institute, committed to imagination in education. Big Thought, located in Dallas, Texas, is a leader among them. (Read about its accomplishments here.) I was therefore honored to deliver the keynote address at the event I discuss below. I witnessed understanding of the Conversations’ mission there, as well as Big Thought’s leadership role in what is already happening in their area and across the country.

The Texas Imagination Conversation, hosted by Big Thought, happened on October 14 at the brand-new AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. Dick Deasy, former director of the Arts Education Partnership, moderated a discussion between such impressive panelists as: Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills; Dr. Jeffrey Davis, director of the NASA Space Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center; Delores Etter, director of Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education; and Ygnacio Garza, member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio Branch. Volunteer journalists documented subsequent “breakout sessions,” in which attendees talked about issues the panel raised and offered their own expertise as they assessed the state of imagination in Texas. Students got to watch a simulcast of the panel discussion and participate in their own breakout sessions.

Gigi Antoni, the impressive president and CEO of Big Thought, a Dallas nonprofit organization whose mission is “to make imagination a part of everyday learning,” says about Texas: “In a state with many voices, backgrounds, industries, and perspectives, a culture of imagination will be the linchpin in ensuring a unified start to the 21st century.” She goes on to call imagination “a bridge builder” that “marries thought to action, combines fields of work, and connects people and lives.” Returning her focus to Texas, Antoni notes, “If our citizens have a place to stretch their thoughts and float their ideas, we can face any challenge to come in the years ahead.”

More Imagination Conversation Reports will appear soon!

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Imagination Conversation Report: MacPhail Center for Music, Minnesota

Here’s another in our series of posts about previous Imagination Conversations. The original Conversation model designed by Lincoln Center Institute involves a moderator and panelists, but some states come up with other event formats based on what they want to accomplish. The catalytic meeting I describe below is one example of this phenomenon.

A group of fifty thought leaders gathered at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design on September 14 to craft a new creative agenda for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. The Minnesota Imagination Conversation, hosted by the MacPhail Center for Music, opened with remarks by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Senior representatives of healthcare company UnitedHealth Group, acclaimed choral organization VocalEssence, the cutting-edge Walker Art Center, and Cargill, an international provider of food and agricultural products, then gave brief presentations on the kinds of creative thinking needed in their fields. Among the other participants were: representatives of Wells Fargo bank and the Bush and McKnight Foundations; strategic planners and alliance builders from business development networks; and prominent figures in education.

Dr. David O’Fallon, former MacPhail Center CEO and current president and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center, reports, “Plans are now in motion for follow-up events to … support the education of the imagination and the creative and innovative uses of it across sectors,” particularly “food industries, healthcare, design, and the arts.”

More Imagination Conversation Reports will appear soon!

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Imagination Conversation Report: Nicolet College, Wisconsin

In the year and a half since the launch of Lincoln Center Institute’s national Imagination Conversations initiative, a multitude of Conversations have taken place across the country. As we prepare for more events in the spring of 2011 and for America’s Imagination Summit in July, we want to catch readers up on what has occurred at these geographically and thematically diverse—but always exciting—events.

The Wisconsin Imagination Conversation, the special focus of which was rural Wisconsin, took place on July 27 and 28, 2010, at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. The event, which was also hosted by the Wisconsin Arts Board and Wisconsin School Music Association, brought together government officials, business leaders, and educators to hear three stories of successful rural innovation and to break into “story circles,” where they imagined what a sustainable rural community would look like in twenty-five years. Artists, musicians, scribes, and videographers worked with them to translate their visions into works of art. Nicolet College President Elizabeth Burmaster recalls, “Through the process of story circles, imaginations came alive.” The inspired results of these brainstorming sessions included a short story, musical compositions, and visual art pieces.

Burmaster predicts that what happened at the Conversation “will guide the work of the participants as they return to their own rural communities to act.” This fact embodies the action-oriented spirit of the Imagination Conversations. The hosts chose a theme that suited the needs and interests of their state, and developed a structure that would best serve that theme. The event prompted new and promising ideas about how to ensure for the state a future with, in the words of Burmaster, “a healthy ecosystem, a vital economy, and social wellbeing.”

More Imagination Conversation Reports will appear soon!

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