In 2011, I was named a fellow in the Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI), which provides comprehensive, professional-level training and support for local community-engaged artists and community developers. CCLI is funded in part by the Bush Foundation.
During the first session of the five-month fellowship, faculty William Cleveland, Wendy Morris and Erik Takeshita asked fellows, “How are you going to take the Institute home?” This was a burning question, and one that many of us there had already been thinking deeply about.
The faculty posed the question on the first day, but we were able to suspend giving an answer while we absorbed assigned readings, presentations and lab work over the course of the fellowship. Essentially, we dissected the field of arts-based community development, then put the artistic pieces back together with sensitivity toward the “hopes, dreams and desires” of the communities that intersect our individual lives.
One such community for me is the Whittier Neighborhood Project at Meldrum Park in Sioux Falls, SD.
The project is led by the Sioux Falls Arts Council and the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department, in collaboration with the Whittier Residents Association and other local organizations. The intent of these partners is to create public art—in this case a wall mural and other public art—that will instill a sense of pride within the Whittier neighborhood and serve as the first step toward establishing it as an emerging arts corridor. In the process of creating the mural, the project will engage the community through design workshops, educational activities for middle-school students and the actual creation of the mural and other public art.
Renowned mural artist Dave Lowenstein of Lawrence, Kansas, will lead the project activities. Art and community are inextricably linked in Lowenstein’s work, and he has completed many similar mural projects nationwide like the one in Topeka pictured to the left. The project partners also plan to offer it as a model and template for other neighborhoods in Sioux Falls that wish to create their own public art projects.
How do the CCLI Fellowship and the Whittier Neighborhood Project intersect? Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $50,000 matching “Our Town” grant to the Sioux Falls Arts Council for the project. I’m convinced the Art Council’s success in pursuing this NEA grant is in part a result of the dedication of the faculty, fellows and presenters at the Creative Community Leadership Institute, who focus their energy and expertise on challenging fellows like me to take responsibility for the things we care about in ways that build creative, caring and sustainable communities through the arts.
Nan Baker is the former executive director of the Sioux Falls Arts Council. She now sits on the board and is an active volunteer for the organization. Nan is also a 2011 Creative Community Leadership Institute Fellow.
CCLI faculty Wendy Morris is a 1989 Bush Fellow; Erik Takeshita is a 2005 Bush Fellow.
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Where do the “creative” and “community” intersect in your hometown? Tell us about the work of a creative community leader (or leaders) who inspires you. What particular challenges do community-engaged artists, organizers, educators, administrators and developers face? We want to know what you think.