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Are you ready for a creative exchange?

As leaders in the arts and cultural community, we have an uncommon capacity to share insights – to find common ground for working together. From viewpoints expressed, and those heard, emerge fresh ideas for community change and revitalization. At the end of the day, we all envision thriving and dynamic communities. 

In my mind, that simple phrase, “thriving and dynamic communities” conjures up images of places where we can discover and express our own cultural values and offer creative problem solving and new ways of looking at issues. Thriving and dynamic communities are places where every member of the community is encouraged and expected to come together and interact in conversations, using arts and culture as a catalyst for community change.

Many years ago (at least 15, if not 20), I was introduced to two really special, inspirational women – Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Pam Korza -- who were (and still are) leading an initiative through Americans for the Arts called Animating Democracy. To this day, its sole purpose is to foster artistic activity that encourages civic dialogue on important contemporary issues.

Early on, the core of their work was to provide grants and advisory support to cultural organizations across the country and implement projects that experimented with, or deepened, existing approaches to arts- and humanities-based civic dialogue. Investigation through these diverse projects, individually and collectively, aimed to advance field learning about the philosophical, practical and social dimensions of this work.

They spent many hours in Michigan and my admiration for their work only grew stronger when I experienced a collaborative project they presented with the Flint Youth Theatre. Even now, their intuition and instincts about how to drive conversation and dialog to achieve ultimate change have strengthened my beliefs on how the arts can impact a community. My own passion for Creative Placemaking was born out of knowing the value of their work.

Each year, I connect to both of them at the Americans for the Arts annual conference for short bursts of time, and for the past 5 years, I have tried to think of a way to connect them to the Arts Council’s work. As our program manager, Meghan Martin, and I began to brainstorm ideas for our 2018 Creative Exchange, our conversations focused on how to engage our membership in the Creative Placemaking agenda, and low and behold, it began to take shape around Barbara and Pam’s work.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that this year's Creative Exchange will feature one of the dynamic duo who will be our workshop leader for the day. My old and dear friend, Barbara Schaffer Bacon will be here on May 15th to meet with our artists, arts and cultural leaders and other attendees. The seeds she has sown in her national work, will soon be planted here in Lansing.

This year's Creative Exchange is an event that offers opportunities for anyone who is interested in placemaking and growing artistic communities around grassroots initiatives and projects. We hope you will join us and Barbara for a full day of lively learning and fun activities. Please take a moment and register to attend today!

See you soon!

Deborah E. Mikula
Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Executive Director