Archive for May, 2010

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FROM PASSION TO INTOLERANCE?

May 25, 2010

I am so fortunate to be leading a team of talented event folks, as we develop an all-employee meeting designed as a re-launch for an energized new vision and mission for the sponsoring company. In the last two weeks, my creative partners and I have woven into the initial plans and budget a myriad of opportunities and environments that allow for every attendee to access stories that resonate with them individually. They will create their own experiences – experiences that allow them to support and commit to bringing that vision to fruition.

We are so excited to see our objective of “5000 events for 5000 people” slowly take shape before us.

Yesterday, I mentioned in a meeting with the client advisory team, that over the last decade I have moved from a student of changing adult learning models to an advocate, then a disciple, and now I find myself bordering on “born-again”. And although it is so exciting to me to see what I have learned on that journey come to fruition in this project, I also sense that I now am balanced on the precipice – like the evangelicals- on lack of tolerance for all those around me that have not “seen the light”. We all laughed and moved on to the matters at hand in the meeting.

But as I was driving away from their facility, it occurred to me that the conversation had more truth in it than I would like to admit. And the mind debate started: Which comes first? Can a personal passion become so all-encompassing that it blinds and deafens one to other approaches? And does intolerance emerge when you shut yourself off from the balance of input, discussion and approaches other than your own? Were the Evangelicals (or any other extremists) simply following an exploratory path fueled by their passion when they became high-jacked into a mind-set of self-righteousness and beliefs for which there is no pathway to compromise or collaboration? We see evidence of that all around us – in our state; in our country; and in our world. Has it also penetrated my own house?

How’s that for a scary thought? That on a passionate quest for better ways to teach and learn, I could be in danger of becoming a radical that is no longer open to change. And if, unchecked, that is a natural progression, how does one protect oneself from falling off that cliff?

In the short term at least, my event partners along with the client advisory and steering committees will be my safety-net; but in September, I certainly need to revisit this!

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The RIVER…

May 16, 2010

This week, amidst the rapidly approaching opening of the Dancers Studio new event venue and juggling priorities between the advertising agency, the media production company and my own design team as we develop concepts, costs, consolidated timelines, and collateral for our collaborative effort to produce an impactful experiential event for a corporate meeting of 5000 attendees in August, I assumed my new responsibilities as the facilitator of the Mississippi Riverfront partners group focused on improving the Visitor Experience along the riverfront.

Whew! What was I thinking when I agreed to do this? Although I know it’s my passion for that riverfront and what I get back personally from it that is the motivator, that question was certainly foremost in mind as my workdays started at 4AM and ended at 7 – 8PM every day this week – and spilled over into the weekend in full force!

And then yesterday, I introduced a friend to the wonder of walking the Heritage Trail early on a Saturday morning. As we started out at 7:30, accompanied by Mighty Dog, everything was still and splashed with sunshine, and I sensed my companion immediately fell under that spell of the moving water as it gave off its gift of living light- about which I have written in a blog last October. As we crossed the Hennepin Bridge, and headed down the West River Road walkway, I found myself becoming the informal tour guide – pointing out the landmarks, history and rich culture we were passing through.

Since this was the first experience on the Heritage Trail for my walking partner, we skipped the interesting detours along the route – until we came to the parking lot at the west entrance to the Stone Arch Bridge – and then, of course, since it was Saturday morning, we added the loop that took us across the Plank Road to Chicago Plaza and the wonderful bustling Mill City Farmers Market. Since mighty dogs are banned from the actual vendors inside the train shed, we each took turns inside while the other explored the plaza with Mighty. After gazing longingly at the huge fresh morels (at $48 a pound) and squirreling away only a small piece of Friesago from Shepherd’s Way Farms in my pocket, we dined on street food (dim sum for me; Aunt Elsie’s Aebelskiver for my friend) then we left that bustling community of friendly river and market supporters that gather every Saturday and returned to the trail.

A leisurely walk across the Stone Arch Bridge, through Father Hennepin Park and up Main Street , and we were back on Nicollet Island for a cup a coffee and a personal chat-up before heading back to the burbs.

We’ll add the loop through the woods along the East Channel to Boom Island, the artwork along the Federal Reserve walkway, First Bridge Park, Mill Ruins Park, Water Power Park, and a visit to the Observation Deck at the Upper Lock and Dam for later trips…and then of course, we need to make the 6th street to University loop to Dunn’s for coffee, a meander through Marcy Holmes that brings us back to the Godfrey House, East Hennepin and back down the Lady of Lourdes steps to the Square…so much to do, so little time before the snow flies again – but I am sure by then I will have a convert to the richness of the riverfront!

And that’s why I took on the facilitator role of the Visitor Experience; I know that living light of our Mighty Mississippi refreshes and inspires me so I can keep meeting the challenges of my life in the event world!

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FORESIGHT AND CHANGE

May 7, 2010

Yesterday I read that this is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the OPEN BOOK on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. As it invaded the area known for acres of tailgating parking lots and the old Liquor Depot, many of us in the Minneapolis Riverfront District applauded and supported their efforts – while the general public could not understand why in the world they picked that location. And what we had hoped for happened-it became a success story as the West Bank of our riverfront reinvented itself to what it has become today. Not only has Open Book which houses The Loft, Milkweed Editions and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts flourished despite the many doubters, we now have a whole new bustling neighborhood with Mill City Museum, Mill Ruins Park, The Guthrie Theatre, the MacPhail Center for Music, a myriad of new condominiums, restaurants, merchants, and the wonderful Mill City Farmers Market. The Historic Mill District has, as the Star Tribune indicated yesterday, become a destination.

As I ruminated about how fast this seemed to happen, and the small roles I played in the opening of Mill Ruins Park and the Guthrie Theatre plus oh so many meetings and groundbreakings as work progressed on various new project elements in the neighborhood, I thought back to a morning meeting this week with the owner of Dancers Studio and one of the construction partners, Beret Evenstad, the interior designer of the space itself. As I have focused on the site details, recommended vendors, and getting the word out to the event world, Beret, amidst the myriad of décor details, was able to step back, view the big picture and connected some very important dots in this project.

The new venue for Dancers Studio, opening June 1, sits on the corner of I-94 and Pascal, right at the Midway Shopping Center. As I have thought of the location in terms of easy access, the change in address so it can be more easily found, and curb appeal for the entrance, Beret connected the farsightedness of the McHenrys to lead the way, along with a new Super Target and the Central Corridor Light Rail project to what will become the Renaissance of University Avenue. She immediately zeroed in on the Public Art St. Paul $250,000 Wing Young Huie photo exhibit of a thriving ethically diverse fusion of people and neighborhoods that represents University Avenue today-before the renovation. Elements of this unique public exhibit launched May 1 which can be seen from 280 to the capital, clearly capture the area as a work in progress. Along with investments for the Central Corridor, the renovation will move forward–like the Historic Mill District, and the rebirth of a thriving Lake Street have done over the last decade-because of the foresight and vision of community leaders like the McHenrys who not only see the possibilities, but are willing to invest to get it done and make a difference in this area.

Beret recognized the exhibit as an interesting element for a mid-summer comunity open house at Dancers Studio and is now proceeding getting this broader story of Dancers Studio and the McHenrys told.

Another lesson learned. We as an industry need to be sure we broaden our view and look at each event we do in the context of the world in which it will happen. This project for me, just stepped up a notch, from an exciting launch of a new venue that helps fill a needed size niche in the event world, to a seed that will grow into something much bigger and long needed in our broader metro area. I am proud to be a small cog in this wheel –helping them where I can to make this happen!

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MEET THE PRESS

May 2, 2010

I’ve been an avid viewer and supporter over the years of Sunday morning’s MEET THE PRESS. Its 9:00AM schedule dictates when I get up (so I have the Sunday paper read and digested before the show) and which church I attend – my favorite downtown, or a neighborhood church that allows me to leave for services AFTER the show is over.

Today they unveiled a new set which is modern, updated and gorgeous. But I’m afraid it won’t help. I have tried hard since the passing of Tim Russert to switch my loyalty to the current commentator but I can’t put away a nagging thought in the back of mind.

Has the mission of the show changed as well as the look, the feel, and the commentator?

I admit, every week I struggle with separating out the personality of Dick Gregory which I read as impolite, cocky, condescending, and intent on divisiveness rather than guaranteeing a honest, informed discussion of issues in our nation. Discussions always have more than one point of view, and more than one “right” answer. And certainly, despite highly political and controversial guests, in the past, moderators chose to present an overview as non-partisan as possible under the circumstances. I have always looked to MEET THE PRESS, along with the PBS NEWS HOUR for unbiased facts and thoughts which I could weigh to draw my own conclusions on an issue.

I’m certain that my own prejudices are impacting how I received the message of the show; but, as an example, I cite the discussion this morning about the tragedy of the BP oil rig and the fast-moving oil leak that threatens so much of our southern shores, their environment and their economy. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like the main goal of Gregory was to get someone to point a finger of blame – at BP or at the US Government – for a slow response- in order to create a sensational breaking headline. I read the information drill-down as a hunt for whose fault is this terrible tragedy. I felt like I was witnessing yet another media-manufactured divisive issue to support ratings against the entertainment-focused cable news channels. I was encouraged that all parties interrogated ignored the bait.

There is a difference, folks, between good issues discussions and ratings. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to stay tuned to the issues and what the guests are revealing of their positions in response to tough questions, when I continue to be distracted by impolite interruptions, the frequently raised voice of the moderator, and a performance broadcasting “smug, swaggering and self-satisfied “. The new set will not help me with that.