Sarah Lovan: Minnesota’s not just keeping up with arts innovation — we’re leading it!

Editor’s note:

Starting now, content formerly found on McKnight’s State of the Artist (SOTA) blog can now be found at the SOTA tag to the right — posts, links, videos, everything. (If you hadn’t visited the State of the Artist blog, check out the tag for excellent arts-related insights and info!) In 2012, we created the SOTA blog as a home for conversations with and about Minnesota’s artists, during the 30th anniversary year of the McKnight Artist Fellowships. With the launch of McKnight’s foundation-wide blog, we’ve simply consolidated the two. Because the arts are so important to McKnight’s core mission and programming, it makes good sense to us to continue our artist-focused conversations here, well-embedded within the context of all McKnight’s programs and strategic collaborations.



Game-playing session at the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture

Game-playing session at the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture

Denver, Colorado, provided a gorgeous backdrop this week for a National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture titled “Leaving the Shore,” orchestrated by EmcArts, a nonprofit intermediary for arts funders and as a service organization focused on innovation in the arts field. The 4-day journey was packed with myriad offerings, including off-site visits to local organizations, workshops to unpack what it means to be “innovative,” inspiring talks, and (speaking of innovation) games! Game-curator Pete Vigeant designed opportunities for the group to respond to the range of dynamics that occur during innovation like: ambiguity, discovery, and productive conflict.

Generously supported by the Bush Foundation, in partnership with Minnesota Philanthropy Partners and our team at McKnight, seven Minnesota nonprofits attended: Native American Community Development Institute/All My Relations Arts, Pangea World Theater, Teatro del Pueblo, Springboard for the Arts, Mixed Blood Theatre, Lanesboro Arts Center, and Pillsbury House Theatre. These groups represented about 25% of those nonprofits invited to present at the gathering, after a rigorous selection process from among hundreds of applicants — a phenomenal national showing for Minnesota, and striking illustration of the innovative arts community we’re lucky enough to partner with every day.

The Minnesota delegation at the 2013 National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture

The Minnesota delegation at the 2013 National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture

The nonprofits’ presentations took the form of “TED-style” talks — 12 minutes onstage with slides, organizations from around the U.S. describing their established innovative practices. Given the prevalence of so many Minnesotan arts organizations sharing their stories, quite a buzz ensued regarding our Midwest state’s leadership in the arts and culture sector. (Even Todd London from New Dramatists Theater, NYC, joked about wanting to come home with us in our suitcases…)

The talks from our Minnesota presenters, all incidentally McKnight grantees, are just too well-done and too powerful not to share. So, now that I’m back home in cozy pre-winter Minnesota, I hope you find as much delight in celebrating the voices of our community as we did at the “Leaving the Shore” summit. It’s a reminder that we’re beyond fortunate to be surrounded by our state’s cultural innovators — in addition to being outrageously smart and creative and perceptive, these people are national field leaders, actively creating and contributing to our state’s vibrant communities.

To kick things off, I’ll start with a link to the talk by Jay Bad Heart Bull, president and CEO of NACDI, whose words resonate with some deep equity discussions that unfolded during the summit. I’ll add links to the other presenters’ videos in coming days too, here and via McKnight’s Facebook page. Enjoy!


Next up, Springboard for the Arts’ Laura Zabel talks about artists as agents of change:


Here’s Noel Raymond of Pillsbury House and Theater on animating neighborhoods:


Here’s Jack Reuler of Mixed Blood Theater:



SLL_mk0220_cSarah Lovan
Arts Program Officer