On Wednesday, February 5, a group of about 40 people came together in a quiet part of Delavan, Wisconsin to contemplate the future of arts and culture in the seven county Milwaukee region. The mission: create a plan for sustainability. The challenge: get fully immersed in collaborative design over the next two days.
I was extremely lucky to take part in this event and I’d like to share my experience. To keep things simple, I’m going to simply list the highlights in bullets. If you have any questions or would like more info you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-353-6562.
The planning committee for the event came up with the name MKEKre8Kamp, not to be confused with Cre8Camp, the unconference for creative industry professionals. It was something we could have fun with for the couple of days.
What truly impressed me was the group of people that attended. All are leaders in their field. Some represented foundations. Others, corporate entities. There were artists, gallery owners, and executive directors of performance groups. Elected officials and owners of interactive and design companies. And I flew in Lucia Willow, Community Manager for Pandora Radio (@pandora_radio), who brought an outside view to arts, culture, creativity and social media. I immediately realized I was very lucky to be part of this event.
As much as I was impressed by who WAS at MKEKre8Kamp, I was also surprised by who was NOT. We were missing some key elected officials. MKEKre8Kamp brought renewed energy to, and even more important, A PLAN for economic development in this region. I sure hope that whatever was more important was indeed more important.
- Day one started at 7:30AM and ended at 6:00PM. No mobile phones. No laptops. No breaks. We even worked through lunch with reading assignments. We then had an hour break but had to be back by 7:00PM for group dinner. All of this is done to keep us focus and create stronger bonds so we can work together more efficiently and with more trust.
- Day one also brought a flurry of activities. We all had our own white boards when working alone and giant white board panels when working in groups. We began with a vision of the future of arts and culture in the region - what it could be. We then had to communicate how that happened on our white boards. We shared the results with our team.
- Then, we were put into other teams around specific aspects of arts and culture. My team was “economic development.” I began to see specific examples from other communities as to how arts and culture plays a larger role in the economy.
- We then joined a different group and we had to artistically convey how all the pieces needed for a thriving regional arts and culture community come together (artists / facilities / funding / creative agencies / corporations / education). The day ended when we finished our project knowing all the groups would present first thing the following morning.
- Dinner on day one was great because it’s where a lot of constructive conversations take place as we all reflect on what we went through during the day. Plus, people seemed relieved that they were finally able to check email and voice messages:)
- We opened with group presentations. Some groups did this through dance, others through music or acting. A couple, including us, did so by creating a piece of art. It was hilarious, entertaining and insightful. Not only in how each group presented their ideas, but in how each person in each group had reached a level of understanding of the importance of ALL of the elements needed in the arts and culture community, whether they were part of that element or not. You couldn’t help but see that if anyone came into day one with apprehension or doubt about the intentions of MKEKre8Kamp, those feelings were gone.
- This was a great transition to what came next—a group discussion to talk about what had happened so far, what needs to happen, any concerns people had about that and what challenges we thought might stand in our way. Through this discussion themes emerged. These themes became the areas of focus for our group: vision, leadership, planning, communication, re-investmetn/efficiencies, education/workforce development, and “low hanging fruit” - what we could do NOW.
- After the discussion we decided as a group what tasks and responsibilities fell under each area of focus. Once that was finished, each of us could sign up for a one of the areas of focus, becoming a team to tackle that area of focus. We were then given time to take the list of tasks and responsibilities and determine what we were going to accomplish that day, in the remaining 3 hours. We had to report this back to the group and get the group’s approval.
- In just a few hours we had incredible results. Our vision team not only crafted the vision statement and values, but also a vivid picture of the benefits of that vision ten years from now. Then our planning team inspired everyone with their plan for a follow up summit to bring together all the arts, culture and creative people and groups that were not at MKEKre8Kamp, share what happened at MKEKre8Kamp, and ask them to get involved. As these and the rest of the teams presented each made commitments for the future success of this initiative. (videos of all this here mkekre8kamp.com)
- There was one final activity. Each of us wrote on a paper band what we were going to do to continue to support the effort. Then, one by one, we announced this to the group and linked our bands together.
In The End
What truly impressed me about how this ended is that it wasn’t about how to strengthen funding for the arts. Instead it created a vision for a creative community with a regional approach to economic development. This is going to make a huge, positive impact on the future of the region. Stay tuned for next steps.