Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to experience the sort of awe that doesn’t come around enough in our lives. Nestled in the vast landscape of rural Brumadinho, Brazil is Inhotim. I don’t even know where to begin.  You can think of Inhotim as a 5,000 acre open air museum – one of the greatest modern art collections embedded in the most stunning botanical garden you will ever experience.  It took my breath away. Continue reading


American Lost in Brazil



Yesterday was my first full day in Brazil on my Eisenhower Fellowship. And in all honesty, it was one of the hardest days of my life. I had imagined it would play out much differently. I woke up at 6:00 am in Rio de Janeiro and immediately turned on CNN.  Before a word was uttered, I saw the red and blue map and knew we were in uncharted territory. Continue reading

I’m back and Headed to Brazil

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My blog may have been quiet since I returned from Northern Ireland and Ireland in May, but the insights I gained from the trip have been ringing out loud and clear in everything I do at COCA and beyond.

And, though it’s hard to believe, here I am ready to head out on the final leg of my 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship journey. I leave today for Brazil on a trip that will take me from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte to Sao Paulo to visit and learn from 30 different arts, culture and community organizations, schools, businesses and government agencies. My travels will take me into Rio’s favelas to visit with organizations working in some of the country’s most impoverished areas; to the extraordinary Inhotim, a unique and massive botanical garden which houses one of the most significant contemporary art collections in the world as well as a botanical collection containing rare species from every continent; to one of Sao Paulo’s most cutting edge electronic media organizations…and everything in between!

Brazil is the largest country in South America, with 82 of every 100 citizens living in cities. The combined population of the three cities I will visit is nearly 21 million! Brazil has been one of the fastest growing economies in recent years, but, as is often the case, rapid growth and urbanization have led to mounting social, political and environmental challenges. So where does arts and culture fit in all of this? That is exactly what I hope to learn. Is culture at the core (or should it be) of the public policy agenda? What is the role of arts and culture in major cities…can investing in arts and culture address deeply ingrained inequities, strengthen social capital, and/or fuel the economy? How are the arts making cities more livable, more sustainable? And how do arts and culture shape the identity of cities?

It’s a fascinating time to be traveling abroad. As I touch down in Rio, Americans will be headed to the polls to finally bring to an end this polarizing campaign season. With a recently impeached president, Brazil’s political climate hasn’t exactly been congenial to say the least. I imagine that both of our countries’ politics will color many of my conversations. It is really quite fitting, because Art has always been political – it shapes our cultural identity, it sways public opinion, it gives voice to marginalized and oppressed groups, it raises our consciousness to social issues of our day, and it transforms our society. And did you know that those who participate in the arts are 20% more likely to vote? That’s you….so get to the polls and VOTE!

I embark on this journey with an open mind and an open heart, and look forward to sharing my experiences (and a little bit of Portuguese) with you along the way.

Até mais tarde!  (See you later!)

The grass is always greener (…or is it?)


FullSizeRender 16First, let me clarify one thing, the grass is indeed greener here in Ireland! Their lush green landscape is stunning. However, when it comes to our greatest challenges and opportunities in the arts, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the pond. In fact, some of our core issues are pretty universal.

I’m wrapping up several wonderful days in Dublin, Ireland, and heading back to St. Louis today. I met with 19 different leaders across this grand city, and consumed plenty of coffee and tea in the process!  Continue reading

Takin’ it to the streets

When you walk into the heart of the city, you feel as if you are entering a giant party.  It is packed with activity – people everywhere, musicians sharing their craft with the masses, FullSizeRender 9food and drink galore. Quickly, your spirit starts to lift and a smile sneaks across your face.  It’s eclectic, lively, and social. It’s Galway, Ireland. Continue reading

From Bloody Sunday to Star Wars

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Peace Bridge in Derry

There is so much history, politics and art packed in Derry-Londonderry, a city of just over 100,000 people. We packed a lot into our two days! This incredibly beautiful place on the western edge of Northern Ireland sits on the River Foyle. It has an old-world European charm, with narrow, steep streets that meander in and out of the quaint village. Continue reading

Corrymeela: If you can’t go straight, go crooked.


As you drive into Corrymeela in Ballycastle at Northern Ireland’s northern tip, an amazing calm washes over you. The serene landscape and beautiful sea view may have something to do with that. Corrymeela is Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Its founding was not a reaction to the Troubles, rather it grew out of post-World War II vision for how we could build communities based on equity, diversity, interdependence and sustainability. Its founder, Ray Davey, experienced the brutality of combat and prisoner of war camps in WWII and upon emerging as a survivor, wanted to imagine a new way of being. Corrymeela was founded in 1965 and soon after, the Troubles erupted in Northern Ireland. It was a seminal period for the organization. They were right where they needed to be when they were needed most. Describing their work today, Corrymeela’s Executive Director Colin Craig says they “work at the fracture lines in people’s lives and in the world.”  How inspiring and how courageous.

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Come in!

IMG_4299If 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.
Come in!
Come in!

–  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. Continue reading