Posts Tagged ‘business’

How the arts and humanities foster creative business

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Last week, we also submitted this testimony from Gary Skulnik, President of Clean Currents. Here, he talks about how arts education fosters the kind of creativity he looks for in his employees. Read his testimony below!

Good Afternoon Council President Berliner and Members of the County Council:

My name is Gary Skulnik and I am the President of Clean Currents; a home-grown company that was developed, incubated, launched and now conducts business in Montgomery County, MD. As a business executive and partner of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, I am pleased to show my support today for the County Executive’s FY13 recommended budget for this worthy agency.

Clean Currents has had the good fortune to work with the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County in the Non Profit Energy Alliance, a creative partnership of the non profit sector, county government, and private business to provide clean energy to area non profits at rates that save them money, enabling them to focus more resources on meeting their mission. The Arts and Humanities Council was instrumental in making this happen. Without them, it would have gone nowhere. (more…)

“In order to meet the demand for innovation in the marketplace, we must continue to teach the skills of imagination in the classroom.”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Our second testimony on April 5 came from Mark Drury, Vice President of Business Development for Shapiro and Duncan, a Rockville-based mechanical contracting company. We met him last year, when we produced the IGNITE! Conference on Transforming Business With Creativity. Here’s what he had to say about the role of creativity and innovation in the workforce:

Good evening President Ervin and honored Councilmembers:

Thank you all for the great work you do every day for the citizens of this County and for your perseverance and effort in long days like today.

My name is Mark Drury, Vice President of Business Development for Shapiro and Duncan, a 35th year Rockville mechanical contractor. We employ locally 435 individuals who help support their 435 families putting a lot of meals on the table every week.

We take a great deal of pride in the workforce we assemble and the quality of the work that they do.  Our workforce is extremely diverse and includes a broad range of skills; abilities; and levels of training and education.

When we are hiring for any position we look at qualifications but the differentiator in whether or not the position is offered is for the most part based upon an evaluation of that individual’s attitude toward life.  Are they confident? Do they take pride in their work? Are they problem solvers? Do they work well in a team environment? Those who can present those attributes are most often offered a spot on our team.

Through in-school and after-school programs, the arts and humanities sector nurtures creativity and imagination in our youth and these experiences foster the development of the abilities and characteristics that are so valued in our business: innovation, perseverance, team work, creative problem solving and the ability to entertain new possibilities thinking outside of the box.

We believe that creativity is one of the most important leadership qualities and that a creative workforce is better prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and that innovation is a “crucial capability.”

In order to meet the demand for innovation in the marketplace, we must continue to teach the skills of imagination in the classroom.

As citizens of this great nation we are concerned that America, a historic leader in innovation, is falling behind as it devotes less attention to developing the essential skills of imagination and innovation. All around us matters of national and international importance cry out for creative solutions, from saving the Chesapeake Bay to containing the nuclear crisis in Japan.

We provide innovative solutions to complex and demanding construction projects in this area everyday.  We know how critical the creativity of our workforce is to our success, so we constantly search for that as an attribute which separates an individual from the masses and ask that they join our successful team. We see firsthand how creativity fosters tomorrow’s innovative workforce and how the spirit of entrepreneurship is characterized by boldness, risk-taking, and, above all, creativity.

We know that you have difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks as you finalize the FY12 Operating Budget and balance County expenses and revenue.  We understand that cuts must be made and that they must be across the board.  We ask for your continued support of the creative sector in Montgomery County ensuring the ready availability of a creative workforce for businesses in Montgomery County which helps maintain our competitive advantage.

Thank you for your time, your patience and your understanding.

Updated December 6, 2011: Support the development of the 21st century workforce by contributing just $12 to AHCMC’s 2012 Overture! Your donation will support AHCMC’s work in supporting arts integration residencies, capacity-building workshops and other services for Montgomery County’s cultural community and creative workforce.

“The arts and humanities are a good public sector investment.”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

On Tuesday night, Montgomery County’s arts and humanities community came together to meet and greet County Councilmembers at the Advocacy Potluck and to support our three speakers at the public hearing. The public hearing had an an incredible turnout (more than we had ever seen before!), so if you weren’t able to grab a seat, we’ll be posting the testimonies here.

Our first speaker was our very own Suzan Jenkins, CEO of AHCMC. Here’s the written testimony she submitted:

Good Evening. I am Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and a twenty-two year resident of Rockville. I begin my testimony this evening by simply saying Thank You.

Thank You for your past support for funding the arts and humanities in previous Montgomery County Operating Budgets.

Thanks for considering support of the FY12 budget recommendation which includes a 15% decrease in funding for arts and humanities grants.

Given the severe financial climate in the County and the nation, we appreciate that all areas of the budget are under close scrutiny. We understand that by making tough choices in this budget year, County Council is paving the way for a more secure and prosperous future.  And in a severe recession, perhaps government is even asking why the arts and humanities should receive funding when there are so many other pressing needs? Well, the answer is simple.  The arts and humanities are a good public sector investment.

Here are six reasons why:

#1. JOBS! Over 2800 jobs in Montgomery County that can never be outsourced. The arts and humanities sector puts people to work.  Not just artists and scholars, but electricians, marketers, technicians, teachers, designers, carpenters, parking staff, caterers and workers in a wide variety of other trades and professions. Like other industries, the staff we employ pay mortgages, local taxes, and purchase goods and services right here in Montgomery County.

#2. The arts and humanities sector is a magnet for business. The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development’s web page notes that “…with our world-class conference and performing arts venues …it’s easy to see why Montgomery County, Maryland is “The SMARTBusiness Location.” Our sector attracts companies that want to offer their employees and clients a creative climate and an attractive community with high amenity value.

#3. The creative sector attracts a highly-skilled and desirable workforce. Companies’ decisions about where to locate their businesses often are influenced by factors such as the ready availability of a creative workforce and the quality of life available to employees.  Certainly the County’s burgeoning biotech industry is looking for that creative workforce to give their business that competitive edge. The most desirable high-wage jobs require employees with creativity and higher order problem solving and communications skills.

#4. The creative sector increases a community’s prosperity as well as its quality of life. The arts: make neighborhoods attractive places to live, work and play; help to develop, redevelop and revitalize blighted areas and strengthen both commercial and residential housing markets. This is evidenced in our three Arts & Entertainment Districts – Bethesda, Silver Spring and soon, Wheaton. The creative sector fuels the tax base, the economy and enhances property values.

#5. Return on Investment. Right now, today, the arts and humanities industry is pumping over $52 million annually back into our economy through direct expenditures on everything from paper clips and cans of paint to employee compensation ($29.7 Million), to contracts for services and supplies uniquely spent by this sector.  For every dollar the County gives AHCMC in grants, arts and humanities organizations match it with an additional $14.26 in city/state/federal/ donated and contributed income.

#6. We innovate. We leverage significant private and public investments to deepen our impact.  The Nonprofit Energy Alliance, a partnership with Nonprofit Montgomery, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, the Nonprofit Roundtable, and the Department of Environmental Protection saves its 26 participating organizations annually about $250,000 in fixed utility expenses, allowing organizations to reduce expenditures on electricity and free up resources for their core missions while significantly reducing their carbon footprint.

There’s no doubt about it, Montgomery County’s arts and cultural resources are an economic asset. The creative sector provides jobs, attracts investments, and stimulates local economies through tourism, consumer purchases, and tax revenue. Perhaps even more significantly, the creative sector prepares workers to participate in the contemporary labor force, create communities with high appeal to residents, businesses, and tourists, and contribute to the economic success of other sectors.

I urge you tonight to continue to recognize the arts and humanities in Montgomery County as your partner in economic recovery and thank you for your continued support.

IGNITE! Transforming Business With Creativity

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Thanks to all of you who came out to IGNITE! For those of you who attended, you know what a spectacular event it was. Eliot Pfanstiehl kicked off the Speed Networking session, and after that, it was ON! As any of us who have attended a meeting or conference with people we haven’t yet met know, those first few moments after registration can be uncomfortable.  But Eliot made certain that we all got to know each other right quick, and by the time the announcement urging us to grab our lunches for the keynote sounded, the halls were abuzz and there was real excitement in the air. Sara Rosen from Congressman Van Hollen’s office remarked on the buzz as she made her way to the keynote and afterward, said she found it energizing, stimulating and informative!

Conference attendees during the speed networking session. Photo by Archer Sierra

Seth Kahan delivered a mesmerizing keynote and provided us practical and creative ways to interact with others in the workplace; ideas on how to start a rave for your business or product; creative problem solving tips and techniques and much, much more. Seth was fun and honest and I left knowing that I too, can get change right!

Seth Kahan with presenter Sam Horn during the lunch keynote. Photo by Archer Sierra

Frankly, I know many would agree that though the sessions were wonderful, they were simply too short! Nonetheless, Sam Horn crammed her session chock full of great ideas on how to use alliteration and alphabetizing techniques (to name a few) in ways I had never even considered for business, and people walked away with a new understanding of the tenets of improvisation and idea implementation steps from Bruce Nelson and Jimi Kinstle that had idea “light bulbs” igniting over many heads! Win Wenger gave us the Wind Tunnel concept to sharpen our ability rid ourselves of brain clutter and  open ourselves to the right idea for any business or personal conundrum. Several attendees noted that they were inspired to close the dichotomy between the creative, artistic self, and the professional business self as a result of the conference, and frankly, I was too!

Conference attendees in Sam Horn's session. Photo by Archer Sierra

I loved Joan Michelson’s idea that consensus can mean plain vanilla and her challenge to embrace conflict and see what we can do to use conflict to help us get to the next phase in our thinking. While embracing conflict may be counterintuitive for some, I’ve learned that something that emanates from a different perspective can stimulate creativity — that is, if you let it. Sometimes a crisis or conflict can force us to look at thinks in a new light, with a new mind. And, considering the competition, that is surely a good thing!

Michelle James helped participants explore how improvisational theatre can help leaders enhance leadership performance, and when crisis, conflict, challenges arise, that’s just what’s needed. This is where “thinking on our feet” comes in and it’s certainly helped in my career! While I tried to be everywhere at once, I simply couldn’t, so I missed Julie Lenzer Kirk’s session, but I hear it was fantastic and why wouldn’t it be? She’s a great speaker and writer, and businesses need to be able to evaluate and recognize the best of many good ideas and act on them – anybody got Cliff Notes from her session?

Playback Theatre during the Conference Finale. Photo by Archer Sierra

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Playback Theatre did a spectacular job of tying the whole thing together by playing back  the effect of the conference on participants and demonstrating how the creative actually ties in to business practice – simply fascinating. Frankly, by then I was spent. But our aerialists Ann Behrends and Nina Charity and Happenstance Theatre helped create just the atmosphere at the Schmoozefest conducive to chatting up my colleagues and hearing the plethora of great ideas they were taking home in the “goodie bag” of their minds!

Ann Behrends, our fabulous aerialist, during the SchmoozeFest. Photo by Archer Sierra

Happenstance Theatre during the SchmoozeFest. Photo by Archer Sierra

So there you have it. We KNOW creativity is THE business imperative and at IGNITE! we saw it. We felt it. We experienced it. We embraced it. We’re harnessing it. Away we go! How about you?