Ask any individual or group how creativity affects their business, or how their business incorporates creativity, then be prepared to sit up and listen. Your ears will be full.
This was the case last week, during a workshop entitled “Art Builds Business. Business Builds Art”, conducted at Murray’s Convention and Visitor Bureau. Co-facilitators were Aaron Harned from the Paducah Small Business Development Center and JC Phelps from SBDC’s London office.
Eighteen people — including individual artists and representatives from local arts organizations and the business community — attended the two-hour session.
The participants did not hesitate to identify the cultural assets of the community. Murray State University was named immediately, along with the two school systems. Calloway County Public Library, Farmers Market, Murray Art Guild, Playhouse in the Park and WKMS were also listed.
Local cafes and restaurants have been recognized as assets that provide residents and visitors with a unique taste of Murray.
Local estate agent Gale Broach Sharp summed up the feelings of the group when she described Murray’s spirit. “It’s a caring community,” she said.
Working in small groups of six, more focused discussions focused on the arts as a vehicle for creative collaboration. Rhonda Roso, from Farmington, opened up about how creative work is her business. She does freelance design, but the products she designs actually solve her clients’ business problems.
“The creative part is where we feel. It’s almost like our soul. The passion,” she said.
Photographer Patrick Abanathy also spoke of the unique blend of artistic and business skills he invests in his work, as he covers weddings and professional events.
Despite her interests in the visual arts and music, Ms. Sharp, the estate agent, was quick to say that she did not consider herself an artist. She added, however, that when she acquaints potential buyers with Calloway County’s many assets, access to the arts, educational experiences and programming is critical to her pitch.
Another photographer, Robyn Pizzo, called COVID a motivation to add more creative aspects to her life. “The pandemic has made me pivot,” she said, adding, “Now I’m on my third career.”
She mentioned how using Zoom during COVID improved opportunities for statewide collaboration and communication, allowing her to accept a marketing and communications position with a nonprofit organization in Frankfurt. .
As a parent of a kindergarten child during COVID, she also had the opportunity to observe the challenges and rewards associated with early childhood learning. As a result, she is now a candidate for the local school board.
Several times during the workshop, the facilitators made reference to the concept of Design Thinking and to a book on this approach to problem solving entitled “Think Again”, by Adam Grant.
The bestseller was enthusiastically received according to the New York Times Book Review:
Intelligence is generally thought of as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there is another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us prioritize the comfort of belief over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think. We see disagreement as a threat to our ego, rather than an opportunity to learn
If the SBDC has anything to say about it, this kind of thinking can inspire communities like Murray to learn by building partnerships that showcase the unique aspects of collaboration between businesses, artists and arts organizations.
“Design thinking,” Harned explained, “gives permission to come up with ideas that take us from linear thinking to constant improvement.”
A host of ideas for change circulated in the workshop. One participant, for example, suggested holding a farmers’ market at night, to bring in people who are less likely to get up early on Saturday mornings. Additional attractions may include musicians, performers and other culinary options.
The original Farmers Market concept would continue, but a whole new generation of buyers and sellers could result.
Another opportunity for creative thinking is the upcoming Calloway County Bicentennial. Applying Design Thinking to plans for the celebration would integrate arts programming and activities, with business/arts partnerships enriching the festivities.
The concept pleases the artist Roso.
“When local businesses know about, appreciate, use and invest in the talents and products of local artists,” she said, “everyone in the community benefits and a much-needed positive boost is given to the community. everyone’s quality of life.