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: 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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Oklahoma Creativity Forum on November 1, 2011

The nonprofit organization Creative Oklahoma has announced that it will hold the first annual Oklahoma Creativity Forum on November 1, 2011.

Beyond its subject—human creativity—the Forum bears a few interesting connections to Lincoln Center Institute. Susan McCalmont, the new president of Creative Oklahoma, is a friend who has helped us greatly as an advisor to LCI’s Imagination Conversations initiative. Susan was formerly executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Kirkpatrick Foundation, which hosted the very first Imagination Conversation back in September 2009. And last fall, Creative Oklahoma hosted the 2010 Creativity World Forum, at which I was honored to speak.

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Imagination Conversation Report: Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado

Image ©Scott Dressel-Martin

The Colorado Imagination Conversation on October 20 was held in a beautiful local space that embodied the ideas explored at the event: the Denver Botanic Gardens. Host organization Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) is a division of the state’s Office of Economic Development that aims to, among other things, “increase access to … creativity skills in P-20 education and workforce development.” Upon arrival, audience members were treated to guided tours of the Gardens’ inspiring exhibit of works by 20th-century British sculptor Henry Moore. The ensuing Conversation featured panelists ranging from acclaimed novelist David Milofsky to Lara Merriken, inventor of popular energy bar LÄRABAR—yet another example of imagination’s impact across disparate professional fields.

CCI Executive Director Elaine Mariner reports that the topics covered by the participants included: imagination’s innateness in everyone; the danger that external influences such as parents, teachers, and peers may squelch imagination; and the importance of surrounding oneself with positive and encouraging people rather than naysayers and non-believers. “We had a capacity crowd,” Mariner notes, “and the audience was very engaged and pleased with the depth and diversity of the views that were expressed.” Video of the Conversation will be available soon on the Web site of official government station Denver 8 TV.

UPDATE 1/3/11: The video of the Denver Imagination Conversation is now available from the Denver 8 TV Online Video page–look for “Imagination Conversation” under the “Featured” tab.

Click here to view all of the Imagination Conversation Reports.

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part Two

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Image by Jane Hoffer

It’s always pleasing for an author who has written about an idea to see that idea reappear spontaneously in public discussions. I’ve experienced this pleasure with the “ICI Continuum,” a concept that Eric Liu and I include in Imagination First and that refers to this relationship: “Imagination -> Creativity (imagination applied) -> Innovation (novel creativity)” (20). In other words, imagination is conceiving of what is not, creativity is doing something with that conception, and innovation is advancing the form in question. Seems commonsensical, right? People are starting to think so, happily, but there hasn’t always been robust agreement on these issues. Continue reading

Outstanding Achievement

Image by Sarah Small

Last Wednesday at the annual gala celebration for the Lab School of Washington (DC), author and activist Jonathan Mooney accepted the school’s prestigious Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award. Severely dyslexic, Mooney learned to read when he was twelve; published his first book, Learning Outside the Lines, at 23; and has become one of the foremost experts in LD/ADHD, disabilities, and alternative education. He was also among the luminaries who took part in one of Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations this past summer in New York City.

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Imagination and Serendipity

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Image by Julia Clark-Spohn

Image by Julai Clark-Spohn

Over the last few days, my co-author Scott Noppe-Brandon and I have been part of two great public events: the Washington State Imagination Conversation, held in Seattle on Oct 16; and a talk we did Tuesday night at the Lincoln Square Barnes & Noble in New York.

The Seattle event, held in the glass-enclosed upper lobby of our city’s gorgeous opera house, was a rich and interactive forum with five panelists and well over 200 attendees. The panelists were amazing: Yoky Matsuoka, a pioneer of neurorobotics at the University of Washington and a MacArthur fellow; Erik Lindbergh, aviator, educator, artist, and grandson of Charles Lindbergh; Harmit Malik, a cutting-edge cancer researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Joby Shimomura, a prodigy political activist and organizer turned stained-glass artist; and Linda Hartzell, the director since 1984 of the acclaimed Seattle Children’s Theater. They made our job as moderators easy: they connected unlikely dots, they shared stories both deeply personal and inspiringly public, and they spurred attendees to jump in with their own ideas and inquiries. The attendees were leaders and practitioners of education, arts, politics, business, parenting, technology, and more. And at two different intervals, they drove the conversation, chunking into little crescents of four or five to explore one of the practices from Imagination First, and then regrouping as a whole to report back their insights and prod the panel into new conversation. It was a thrilling way to engage our community. Continue reading

Fail Well

Eric Liu with co-author Scott Noppe-Brandon at the October 8th event. Photo by Jessica Handrik.

Eric Liu with co-author Scott Noppe-Brandon at the October 8th event. Photo by Jessica Handrik.

Last night we held the New York Imagination Conversation at the New York Public Library for the Performing arts, located at Lincoln Center. It was such a rich discussion—the panelists included jazz violinist Zack Brock and astronomer Luke Keller, both featured in the new book, Imagination First, plus film producer Adam Brightman and Leslie Koch, the impresario of Governors Island. The practice from the book that came to my mind most often during the conversation was “Fail Well.”

Each of these luminaries spoke powerfully about the force that has most often stifled their imagination: fear. Fear of failing, in particular. Each of them, as teachers and leaders and creators, has had to reckon with the possibility of public failure. And each of them has created cultures— in a classroom, on a movie set, in public spaces or private clubs— where failing is treated as a necessary and useful part of not failing. They *practice* failing, with a spirit of continuous experimentation.

That’s how Governors Island is developing into such an unusual and vibrant space under Leslie’s stewardship, how Luke teaches students to interpret the dust of the heavens, how Zach harnesses every past influence to serve each moment’s improvisation, and how Adam inspires confidence on the set and creates an environment that allows the film to develop. They remind us that, for all the external forces that inhibit possibility, our own voices of self-doubt are often the greatest enemy of imagination.

Click here to learn more about the Imagination Conversations project.

Imagination Conversations

Corporate Lawyer Stanley Pierre-Louis moderates an Imagination Conversation in June 2009

Corporate Lawyer Stanley Pierre-Louis moderates an Imagination Conversation in June 2009

Love of the arts has guided and inspired me my whole life. I was a dancer before I was an executive: I breathed and lived the arts. They have, in large part, made me the individual that I am: using the arts as the foundation of understanding I have approached the people in my life and taught my children.

At Lincoln Center Institute, which is a part of Lincoln Center, my love of the arts is shared across the board, from staff to leaders of LCPA’s affiliate organizations. As well, we all share the understanding of the mission and importance of the arts in the lives of all.

“Scott,” you say, “you’ve got a terrific job and we’re jealous. But what is your point?” The point is that I have always believed that the arts—or art for art’s sake, if you will—were a blessing in and of themselves: an extraordinary expression of humanity that has a transformative ability within our society and allows us, people from vastly different traditions across the globe, to meet and to share our cultural aesthetic in peace.

A rich and self-sufficient treasure then, I thought. But I have had to revise my thinking. I did not change an iota of my belief, but I’ve had to add new elements to it. The arts will always be an unequaled educational experience. But the scope of that vision has widened. The arts now have to be part and parcel of educational preparation for college, and, above all, for the workforce. The arts are a natural portal into imagination, its product and its fuel. Imagination is, in turn, the fuel of creativity and innovation, essential components of a résumé in this century. Lincoln Center Institute’s 50 Imagination Conversations project is an ambitious new initiative to explore the role and importance of imagination in all areas of human endeavor, from the artist’s studio to the classroom to the boardroom. Continue reading