Welcome to Creative Exchange (again)

“I believe in the magic of storytelling, not only for teller but also the listener,” says agrarian artist Nikiko Masumoto, who lives and works in California’s Central Valley. “The possibility of public exchange is so rich for inspiring changes in behaviors and public policy shifts.”

That’s been the promise of Creative Exchange since we initially rolled out the site in beta this March. With the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and partnership with Urban Innovation Exchange and Issue Media Group, we’ve been able to share stories about the important work of artists across America. More than that, we’ve paired those stories with practical toolkits for individuals and organizations to engage with each other and build new, fruitful, vibrant relationships.

These toolkits also come from partners across the country, and are all based on programs that have been practiced, refined and adapted, so we know they can work. In the past 7 months, we’ve shared nearly 100 toolkits with individual artists and arts organizations, but also with city councils, real estate developers and downtown associations. We’re excited about that connection – that art doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that artists are vital contributors to their communities. This work “ensures that artists are at the center of community life,” notes Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts for Knight Foundation. “Creative Exchange can help spread that message to cities across the country.”

Creative Exchange is also a space for conversations and connections. We’ve just relaunched our Discussions page to be powered by Disqus, enabling deeper onsite conversations. We’ve also hosted Google Hangouts with toolkit creators to spark conversation and get into the nuts and bolts of the work – look for next hangout in November. We’re working to make sure that the Creative Exchange team is out at gatherings, conferences and community events to build face-to-face contacts. And of course, you can always be in touch on FacebookTwitter or at creativeexchange@springboardforthearts.org.

We are excited for this official launch of Creative Exchange, and for all the growing we’ve done and have yet to do. With our content partnerships with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aspen Institute Arts Program, as well as new support from the Surdna Foundation and Kresge Foundation, we see Creative Exchange as a hub for a national movement of artists as community leaders, sharing the superpower of arts and culture. As Detroit artist Flaco Shalom puts it, “I want to be the constant yes in the community.”

There are artists doing inspirational work everywhere – in studios and workshops, as public projects, with schools and nonprofits and city councils – and there are tools to engage and expand their important work.  We want to uplift and share the magic of those stories and the “yes” of those resources. And if you believe there aren’t any artists in your community, look harder, you’ll find them. You may even find that you are the artist in your community.