If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
– Invitation by Shel Silverstein
This is my invitation to you to “come in” and join me on my Eisenhower Fellowship journey this year. As a 2016 USA Eisenhower Fellow, I have the honor of traveling on a five-week transformational, international experience in which I will meet with experts in my field, and beyond, to help me achieve consequential outcomes in my region as well as across borders. I will admit that the mission feels a bit daunting at times, but I am completely and utterly inspired by the Eisenhower Fellowships’ simple yet bold premise – create a global network of leaders where dialogue and collaboration can be used to make the world more prosperous, just and peaceful. That simple…and that challenging, especially in today’s world.
As I embark on this journey as an Eisenhower Fellow, I am proud to be a representative for the USA, the arts and culture field, my organization – COCA, and my city – St. Louis, Missouri. My fellowship will take me (beginning this week!) to Northern Ireland and Ireland, and I will head to Brazil this Fall. And what are my program goals? Throughout my career, I have witnessed the transformative power of the arts on individuals and communities. I hope to connect with places and people who understand the value of their arts and culture assets, and intentionally and strategically use them to drive their economy and bridge social, economic and ideological divides in their communities. Also, I am interested in the development of human creativity….how are other parts of the world developing the creative capacity of young people in schools and/or community programs, and how does than link to creative industries and their economy?
The need to address inequalities in my community was exacerbated when, in August 2014, unrest broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, a ten minute drive from COCA’s front door. The Ferguson events forced a fierce examination of systemic issues – racial, social, educational, political and economic – and resulted in a collective awakening to our shared sense of responsibility. Our work in arts and culture calls us to partner with other sectors and industries to meet the most pressing and relevant needs of our cities and communities. My hope is that we can use the arts, in my region and around the world, to build vibrant communities that are creative, connected, prosperous, and inclusive.