New & Next: Arts and Community Converge at IdeaLab

The people who make a place matter.

The artists, creative collaborators and community organizers who create local arts and culture can have a national impact by sharing their work, programs and ideas. That’s the driving conviction behind the work of Creative Exchange, an online platform of artful ideas for stronger communities: what we do in our neighborhoods and cities adds up to big things across the country.

Creative Exchange launched in March of 2014, a partnership between Springboard for the Arts (based in Fergus Falls and Saint Paul, Minnesota), Issue Media Group, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In the last year and a half, we’ve published over 125 profiles of artists with impact in Denver, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and many other cities. Artists are doing big things across the country.

We’ve also been able to partner with the Surdna Foundation and Kresge Foundation, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and Aspen Institute Arts Program to share special features on creative placemaking, artist organizers and art in disaster recovery. All this has been supported by our desire to help make things happen, and so we have an array of toolkits for change, offering guides to proven, artist-centered, community-engaged programs. These programs range from pop-up museums to artists’ health fairs to better community planning tactics, and are free for anyone to use.

One thing that we do recommend with the toolkits, know from our own work, and see in the stories of artists with impact, is that creative partnerships are often at the heart of a success story. That is why I am so excited to be coming to Denver on Nov. 6 for IdeaLab, a partnership between Creative Exchange, Confluence Denver, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and Denver Arts & Venues.

The movement of local arts and culture has a national impact, is shared on a national scale via platforms like Creative Exchange, but is strengthened when there are spaces locally to meet, connect with new partners and get inspired with new ideas.

There is so much happening in Denver that makes it an ideal location for this kind of creative convening. From foundations like Bonfils-Stanton investing in innovative arts programming to civic support for art to the Imagine 2020 plan driving a city-wide vision for arts, there is lots of activity on all levels that makes Denver an exciting place to be. That IdeaLab is on the same day as the kickoff of Denver Arts Week is no co-incidence.

But it’s the people that make all this work, all this run, all this so much fun. We’re so inspired by the morning speakers coming in to be a part of IdeaLab. We have Jami Duffy, executive director of Youth on Record in Denver; Lisa Eldred from the Denver Botanic Gardens (they run a Community Supported Art program!); artist and musician Stuart Hyatt, part of the M12 Collective; Joan Vorderbruggen from Made Here, a storefront art project in Minneapolis; and Samantha White, founder of Shakespeare in Detroit. These are people who are listening to their communities, creating, nurturing and supporting artists, sharing that work widely, and shaping their local movement of arts and culture. That’s exciting to see and inspirational to hear from.

And then of course there’s you. If you are reading this column, you are probably a curious, connected, civic-minded individual. Maybe you call yourself an artist. Maybe you consider yourself a fan or a supporter. Maybe you just want to see what’s best for your city. In any case, you have the capacity for new partnerships and creative ideas, and you are a part of the movement of local arts and culture. Thank you for showing how your people in your place matter. I hope to see you at IdeaLab on Nov. 6!

Carl Atiya Swanson is Springboard for the Arts’ Director of Movement Building, working on Creative Exchange, a national hub of artful ideas for stronger communities. He is a theater-maker with Savage Umbrella, a company dedicated to creating new, relevant works of theater, and is on the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Twin Cities. 

Bonfils Stanton