Charlotte Viewpoint Magazine
Barbara Spradling was appointed Director of Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Visual Art in July 2008. Here is a portion of her interview with Emily Williams, Editor of Charlotte Viewpoint Magazine. For the full story, click here.
Tell me what the Innovation Institute is all about.
We believe that everyone is creative. From childhood through adulthood,
our educational system reduces its emphasis on maintaining creative
abilities and instead focuses on developing our analytical abilities. The
workplace reinforces this thinking. So, at the Innovation Institute we
operate under the premise that through working with artists, we can help
individuals find their creativity again and help them turn it into a habit that
they can access whenever they want. The program is designed to discover
that creativity inside of you and put it to work in your personal life, work
life or community life.
What is the present status of the Institute’s lifeline?
We have a three-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
to develop the program into a self-sustaining model. We offer three to
four sessions each year for business and community leaders that involves
intensive experiential work with artists. We also do team programs, so for
example if a business group is doing a strategic plan, the Institute would
work with that group and do a series of exercises with an artist to open them
up for that planning exercise. Also, our work is not just with businesses.
We often do programs with community groups and we just recently finished
a one-day program with Charlotte Center City Partners. Also, a third party
evaluation of our alumni and the program model was recently submitted.
Out of that evaluation, 97% of the alumni said they would recommend the
Innovation Institute; 92.5% said that they had made a change in their lives
after participating in one of our programs and 79% said they had made a
change to their business.
How do you think the Innovation Institute can help Charlotte in the
The Institute is ultimately here to serve the community. That rests on the idea
that if our alumni are out in the community using what they have learned after
training with us, then they are making a difference. By the nature of those
who enroll in our programs, most of them are already active in the Charlotte
community before coming to us. I think that makes sense. So they are using
what they have learned not only in their companies but also on behalf of
the community’s efforts that they are involved with. We hope they will all
collectively move Charlotte forward.
Are there any future plans on the horizon for the Innovation Institute?
Well, we are at the point where we can and want to grow the business
significantly! We are not bound by just Charlotte; we have done custom
programs in California and Florida and would love to do these programs
in other cities around the country. So from a business standpoint we are
interested in building enough infrastructure to be able to offer these programs
to meet demand for them. We have businesses currently working with us
who send an executive to each of our programs so that they are gradually
building this innovative skill set within their companies. That eventually shows
up within various aspects of the community. You don’t need to move out of
Charlotte to find the kind of creative atmosphere you are looking for and that’s
what the Institute believes: it’s all right here. We just need to grow it!
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