Monday, January 30, 2012

Innovation Institute flies high!

I just came back from another session of the Innovation Institute and heard that there was a nice promotional piece in US Airways magazine.  An executive from BASF read the article and contacted McColl. They had 90 people there last week and were excited about the possibilities. Great job! Looking forward to working with them in the future.

Text reads:
Cultivating Creativity: Innovation Institute redefines leadership and corporate innovation.

A Haven for right-brain creatives, McColl Center for Visual Art also provides a bridge for left-brainers.

The Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Visual Art helps executives not just think outside the box, but throw the box out the window.

In a
post-recession economy, businesses are searching for new and effective ways to lead, problem-solve, and drive the kind of innovation that will propel an organization forward in the new economy. Innovation Institute works to restore creativity in corporate environments through smart risk taking and harnessing the imagination. It explains, "No one ever learned to innovate by talking about it. It's all in the doing—risking, revealing, setting aside theories and never, ever hiding behind the familiar."
Engineers, marketing executives, accountants, physicians, and more (including corporations like Duke Energy, Bank of America, and Ingersoll Rand) are seeking out the Innovation Institute programs to strengthen their work place.

Programs are led by an artist, and the Transformational Leadership program takes place over six days. Class themes include Courage in the Face of Struggle and Unlocking the Creative Voice, among others. Leadership program participants work with six specific artists who help the participants find their inner creativity and learn how to manage and act on creative impulses. The Transformational Leadership program is limited to a small number of participants to ensure a more personal experience. The team takes part in presentations and challenging hands-on group and individual exercises. One day's session may produce paintings and sculptures, another may include drafting poetry about...

taking risks. No matter what the project, the goal is always the same: to push participants to tap their inner creativity and to use it effectively.
Innovation Institute custom programs lead teams through provocative processes that generate breakthroughs, teach the importance and value of creative space, and unleash personal creativity—all building blocks to driving real innovation.
A corporation that seems to be "stuck" following the same procedures and getting the same results can try a half-day "creative session" or a multi-day retreat as part of the Institute's customized innovation work. If brainstorming and creative sessions feel more like brain-draining sessions, Innovation Institute can open new doors with half-day or full-day Focused Creativity sessions. And if team collaboration isn't producing break-through outcomes, a multi-day retreat would provide a welcome windfall of true results.
Regardless of the issues or business or individual may face, the Innovation Institute can help unleash your creative core, experience the challenges of creativity, harness imagination, and develop the capacity to recognize, influence, and support creativity in others. Those skills are critical to business success in today's competitive environment.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cecelia Scott: A remembrance

Cecelia (aka “Ce”) Scott — one of the founders of McColl Center for Visual Art and creative director at both McColl and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture — made news last November after she chose to exit her posts at both institutions (for as yet unrevealed reasons). Her last curatorial work — the exhibition “Converge” by artists Quisqueya Henriquez and Sonya Clark — opens tonight at McColl. The following piece is a reflection of her impact by noted artist, educator and friend Bill Gaskins.

 Ce Scott, photographed in front of a piece by artist Thu Kim Vu. (Photo by Thu Kim Vu.)

Most visual arts organizations born in the 20th century are faced with 21st century questions concerning the relevance of art, artists, and arts centers in a time of national, economic, and cultural uncertainty.

With that said, the recent departure of Cecelia Scott from her position as creative director from McColl Center for Visual Art prompted some personal reflections on the person behind the role that few people had proximity to. Much more than a person has left the center of contemporary art in the city of Charlotte — a majestic legacy departed with her.

My association with Ceceila Scott began in 1995 during her distinguished tenure as a graduate student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. She was entering the Hoffburger School of Painting at the Institute one year after I graduated from there and commuted each week from Baltimore to teach at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Presently, I am a professor in Art, Media and Technology and Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons The New School for Design in New York.

Since our first meeting, I have been a witness to Cecelia’s growth and development as an artist and an administrator at the McColl Center, as architect of its nationally and internationally noted artist residency program.

Through years of conversations with Cecelia over a variety of issues and ideas related to her duties at McColl and in art in general, I have always been impressed by how inclusive and social her vision is within an arts culture that can become hermetic and exclusive. She is in many ways a practical visionary through how she works effectively with the human and material resources available to her, while at the same time asking: “What is the next level of growth, and how do we get there?”
Aside from being a forward-thinking arts administrator at McColl, Cecelia was also a thoughtful curator who constantly asked provocative questions that sought to challenge the artist — and the audience.

And she amassed a record of exhibitions that have showcased a broad range of art makers from around the world in doing so. In the midst of this intense level of activity, Cecelia maintained her own life as an artist whose work ranges from works-on-paper, mixed media, performance, and the culinary arts.
I know few people who can speak and comprehend as many languages of artistic expression as effectively as Cecelia. Her vocabulary and skills have greatly enabled her dialogues with a broad range of people both in and out of the visual arts.

Most significantly Cecelia possesses an engaging personal and professional carriage, bearing, and integrity that enabled her to build coalitions across a broad spectrum of public and private constituencies that greatly served the Center in its development efforts, and enabled the center to grow and expand its range of activities and audiences.

I was an artist-in-residence at McColl in the summer of 2008. During that same period, McColl President and CEO Susanne Fetscher was away on personal leave until October 2008. The absence of the executive director meant that the workload on the administrative staff significantly increased. For three months I had a view of Cecelia on a day-to-day basis in her role at McColl.

Aside from managing her responsibilities as director of residencies and exhibitions, she was always thinking holistically about the Center — locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, in the long and short range, and at the micro and macro level — with an uncommon level of detail and scope.

Cecelia was always in the vicinity of the heavy lifting and problem solving that makes McColl Center for Visual Art one of the best residency programs and visual arts centers in the country. No task ever seemed to be above or below her. There are few people in this business that work better with and harder for artists and the their audiences than Cecelia Scott. I left McColl much better for the time I spent in the space she cultivated.

In my view, what she did with the greatest distinction at the McColl Center was raise trenchant questions of both producers, patrons, and public spectators of art that took the form of amazing dialogues, exhibitions, public programming, short and long-range strategic planning and development strategies.

Having observed her management and leadership style from a distance as well as day-to-day, I can say that the departure of Cecelia Scott from the McColl Center will not only leave a huge void both locally and regionally, but also nationally and internationally as well.

What the city will miss will be her challenging Socratic facility, her passion for working with artists, her social and interpersonal assets, her curatorial vision and experience as well as her interactions with trustees, staff, administrators, artists, the community at large and her wonderful sense of humility, humor, generosity of spirit and intellect in the service of the Center.

What must also be said is that it was the vision and wisdom of McColl President Susanne Fetscher who hired Cecelia as a founding staff member of the former Tryon Center for Visual Art as education and outreach program director and for the role of creative director at McColl Center. I have no doubt that Susanne’s wisdom will serve her in finding someone to fill the position formerly held by Cecelia.
Likewise, I have no doubt about Cecelia’s future as a leader and change agent in the art world. With her departure from the McColl Center, however, I doubt that anyone will ever replace her and the contribution she made to the quality of art and life in Charlotte.

Consequently, I have serious concerns about the future of contemporary art in the Queen City.

Bill Gaskins,
New York City

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

3 Voices Interview

Finally got my hands on a copy of an interview I did with Joy Vandervort-Cobb at the College of Charleston a couple years ago. Joy is a wonderful and hilarious theater professor with a set of golden pipes. She was supposed to be taking over the hosting duties for a radio show produced by the College and aired on PBS. Joy wanted me to be her first interview - we had a blast and seriously, I could talk with that woman for hours.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Art - Rainbro Row

If you don't live in Charleston, S Carolina, or have never visited, then this probably doesn't make much sense. It is a cynical take on one of Charleston's most popular and photographed tourist attraction - Rainbow Row.

Rainbow Row is the name for a series of colorful historic houses located north of Tradd St. and south of Elliot St. on East Bay Street just before you hit High Battery. It is referred to as Rainbow Row for the pastel colors used to paint all of the houses. They exemplify everything that Charleston seems to sweat profusely - history, charm, nostalgia, etc., you get the picture. It is an assured stop on the carriage rides.

A little history on the non-historic (via Wikipedia). After the Civil War, this area of Charleston devolved into near slum conditions. In the early 1900s, Dorothy Porcher Legge purchased a section of these houses numbering 99 through 101 East Bay and began to renovate them. She chose to paint these houses pink based on a colonial Caribbean color scheme. Other owners and future owners followed suit, creating the "rainbow" of pastel colors present today. 

Common myths concerning Charleston include variants on the reasons for the paint colors. According to some tales, the houses were painted in the various colors such that the intoxicated sailors coming in from port could remember which houses they were to bunk in. In other versions, the colors of the buildings date from their use as stores; the colors were used so that owners could tell illiterate slaves which building to go to for shopping (nice one, huh?).

Perhaps the second most photographed attraction in the Charleston area are the plantations, notably, Magnolia and Boone Hall. The grandeur of those places totally overshadow the squalid little huts known as slave cabins. In fine 'Plantation series' form, I decided that the slave cabins needed to be seen as equally as charming, so through the magic of Photoshop, I added an extra cabin to close the ranks and 'painted' the slave cabins behind the McLeod Plantation (originally whitewashed) in bright rainbow colors. Considering the original Rainbow Row has no real historic value and the slave cabins do, why not leverage the visual value of the valueless to make relevant the truly deserving?

I ought to have T-Shirts made of these.