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!

Click here to view all Imagination Conversation Reports.

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!

Click here to view all Imagination Conversation Reports.

Art Meets Doctor

Image by Adrian Clark*

Wynn Perry authored a terrific article for Live Science about first-year students at Yale Medical School, whose training includes a visit to the Yale Center for British Art. Exploring art, it turns out, sharpens one’s observational skills—and we all want a very, very observant doctor.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

The Journey to A Buddha State of Mind

By Paula Boggs

This is the first in a series of guest blogger posts. We are honored that Paula has agreed to blog for Imagination Now.

Image by Randee S. Fox

I recently introduced my new CD A Buddha State of Mind to the world by hosting a release party at Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington. Though it may seem obvious, I really had to “imagine” creating a CD before taking the first steps in actually co-producing one. A big part of that was, of course, convincing myself that I could actually do it! Though I started writing music and playing guitar as a child, I stopped in my late 20s and really thought I’d moved on…too busy with other things. Many years later I was inspired to write again and play music but the journey from there to A Buddha State of Mind on iTunes was not obvious. I have a full-time job as a corporate executive and many competing demands on any given day. A songwriting coach encouraged me to keep writing and performing; a voice coach inspired me to work hard and along the way, over a period of years; I met amazing musicians who loved my music and, importantly, liked spending time with me. Patience, a measure of humility, a positive network of people who helped me dream big, a talented producer who “got” my music, a supportive work environment, and the crucial first step of a metaphysical space where “imagine” was possible were all crucial to my gaining confidence that I could make something artistic and enduring. I have learned a lot.

A Buddha State of Mind takes the listener on a journey that explores a range of human emotion and is genre-defying. In that sense, the CD journey mirrors my life’s emotional arc and the discomfort I often have with labels. And, the “journey” is not linear. The CD starts with its title track, a song with a wry sense of humor, and ends with the artsy rock song, “Original Sin.” As bookends, both songs reflect well my sense of the possible while exposing a vulnerability that, for some, and for me personally, has only come with age. Along the way, the listener meets songs reflecting imperfect love and stories of soulful and sometimes funny observation. The CD is bound by the lead vocals, melodies that stick and its musicianship. As one internet radio fan put it: “An enigmatic, original voice with great feeling, this artist’s best work is ahead of her. I hope she can find a place in an empty soulless music industry of today. A female Leonard Cohen? I think so and I mean that as a compliment.” For a habitual “control freak” like myself, learning to trust others to show up for a rehearsal, interpret my creations as I heard them in my head, perform them with passion, and accept that in some cases someone else had a better idea all enabled me to imagine an “end state” where music and performance joined in a CD ready for prime time.

Recording artist Paula Boggs recently launched her debut CD, A Buddha State of Mind. She leads the global law department of Starbucks Coffee Company, and serves on the boards of Johns Hopkins University and the American Red Cross. Paula’s approach to songwriting is featured in the book Imagination First.