March 16, 2013

I’ve been a pioneer in using social media and digital messaging to create a better interactive and engaging event- and I have been well recognized and rewarded for doing so. And yet, I continue to search for more impactful tools – tools that convey a sense of warmth and meaning.

I have been advocating for art and culture as a medium – harking back to my own “good old days” at BI in the’ 70s and CMG in the’ 80s when “People to People” Welcome Cocktail Receptions were often my trademark planned into the incentive travel award we offered our Fortune 500 clients.   And yet, try as I have, the integration of arts and culture has not trumped “pretty”; the “WOW Factor”; good food and good entertainment as the stars of the event world. And all those that know me, know how frustrated I am when the awards banquet turns into a theme party instead of a chance to celebrate and learn from the awesome performance of others.  Over twenty years, I have not learned how to communicate effectively HOW to do it better as the fun of a party with costumes and lots to drink presents a challenge for which I do not have the skills to compete!

So I did my own thing, experimented where I could, and finally found a way, through the use of digital applications, to change things up in a more impactful way than an ordinary “special” event .

But that has not stopped me from thinking about how we can do it better.

Early in 2012, I attended a city program called Plan-It Hennepin…and EUREKA! – I found what I was looking for.  As part of that experience, I participated in a week residency by Charles Landry that focused on creative city-making and knew I was on the right track.  It is the essence of every world class city in the world.

Yet, to date I have not found the opportunity to experiment in how I can achieve what I am looking for through this medium.

Meanwhile, this month, I have spent my fair share of time at Mayo – and between appointments, I re-acquainted  myself  with the “Mirror to Man” art of my past found through-out the much smaller Mayo complex of the 1950s-1980s….and along the way, experienced the explosion of new art since added to the collection and displayed through-out the “grown-up”  Mayo complex.  Experiencing the Mayo philosophy (care for the well-being of its patients along with their medical needs) again ignited the overwhelming desire to bring this medium into my work.

Riding back to Minneapolis on the Mayo shuttle, I was re-energized.  I have to try one more time to figure out how to illustrate to our industry how we are missing the boat.  It is not about pretty; it is not about Wow; it is not about a digital trick or game…it is about connecting emotionally to create memorable experiences that deliver the strength and clarity to accomplish our client’s  goals and deliver desirable outcomes.

So needless to say, with that percolating in the back of my brain, I was immediately drawn to the “Cities are turning to artists as urban troubleshooters” feature in the Strib this morning.

As I read, I learned that national policymakers are watching the Twin Cities as we experiment in using art to help with an urban problem, and as Saint Paul is now doing.

“There’s no doubt the Twin Cities is leading the charge on this…you have a creative ecology that spawns this work much faster and in a more leading-edge way than other cities” said Carol Coletta, head of ArtPlace, a Chicago-based consortium of foundations, federal agencies and banks that finance art projects similar to those now taking place in Saint Paul.   Sounds like a lesson learned and somewhat forgotten from my Meetings Production days where I repeatedly relearned that remarkable creative talent often trumped that found on either coast.   And of course, I already am aware of CreativeCityMaking, Irrigate and Arts on Chicago …I simply struggle with how this rich resource we have here can become integrated into our world of events, adult-learning, and objective achievement  in the world of our clients, the business community.


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