Liveblogging the Oregon Arts Summit

Yeah, you heard me. Live, from the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike Campus in Beaverton, it's... it's.... the 2009 Oregon Arts Summit. Not fascinating fodder for our average visitor perhaps, but a handful of folks have asked me to keep them posted on what's being discussed here, and I have my handy dandy Clear WiMax plug-in to compensate for the fact that there's no WiFi on the Nike Campus, so what the heck! Please note that this will be a fast and furious play by play of events here with analysis to come later if I or any of my colleagues find that further reflection is warranted. (Waving across the room to Mighty Toy Cannon, who doesn't see me.)

8:30 AM, the conference opens with Bob Thompson of TVA Architects and the principal designer for the Nike World Campus, which used to be my old stomping grounds of a natural area. Bob spoke about the collaborative process that resulted in these million square feet of space before OAC Board Member and Hoffman Construction VP Bart Eberwein officially welcomed us all at 9:00 AM.

The theme of today is Collaboration. The structure is that every 40 minutes, a new innovator in collaboration (not necessarily from the arts community) will take the stage to deliver roughly ten minutes of remarks about collaboration and how it happens, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A with a noteworthy dialoguist from the arts community. After that, participants have the option of following the speakers into a bunker down the hall for a more thorough and intimate discussion, or grabbing a cup of coffee and checking out the next mainstage speaker. They're keeping us on our toes. (Too much?)

9:10 AM Tinker Hatfield, Nike's director of Special Projects is telling us about his personal friendship and 25-year collaboration with Michael Jordan all of which have resulted in that billion-dollar brand (and side business) of Nike's. I think the lesson here is that even athletes have an artistic side? No, seriously though, rather than the shoe company just making a shoe for MJ to sign, Nike involved the athlete in meaningful ways and took advantage of his artistic interests to co-create a product that changed the way we think of shoes and athletic apparel.

9:30 AM We're asked to have a conversation at our table about collaboration, and what do we know about it? Generally, our ten-top theme seems to be that collaboration can be hard for some of us to initiate because we know it will involve compromise, especially if we are passionate about our core beliefs heading into the implementing of project, but usually pays wonderful dividends. And, it's a sexy word that gets thrown around a lot.

9:45 AM. Bill Rausch, Artistic Director of OSF takes the stage as the first official innovator session. Bill talks about his experiences with Cornerstone Theater, a collaborative theater company in LA and how those experiences have brought to mind three vital questions about the nature of collaboration: (1) What is the cost of keeping everyone at the table? (2) Where do you draw the line and take a stand? (3) How do you maintain patience to see the results of your collaborative efforts, and be open to unintended consequences? I find these questions very pertinent in my own experiences and appreciate Bill's statement that it's challenging to bring a tone of community collaboration (which sometimes leads to scary things) to the traditional audiences of Ashland. I also like his parting piece of advice: when entering a room or a collaboration, look for the person who you probably have the least in common with, and get to know that person. The results could be fascinating!

10:10 AM. Coffee break. Check email. Network. Repeat.

10:25 AM. Dana Plautz, artist and former Intel executive, talks about the fruits of collaboration between artists and engineers. She has compiled a comprehensive online resource of 50 organizations that help facilitate these collaborations ( Also, she has a cool new endeavor called which provides online content for children, sans advertising, and encourages them to read and be creative.

10:40 AM. I'm still thinking about Bill Rausch's comment about finding the person most unlike me, and getting to know that person. Is he in this room or is the entire Nike campus my oyster? And, will he be cute?

10:45 AM: Are you familiar with The Creative Vitality Index? It's one way to scientifically measure the economic health of arts-related industries in Oregon (and other states who use the Index). Available online soon at

10:50 AM. It's clockwork. Dr. Brian Drucker takes the stage and reminds us of the importance of looking at things differently with a ready mind. In the same way that Dr. Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin where we all see mold, Dr. Drucker changed the way we treat leukemia -- rather than bombarding the cells with toxic chemicals, he worked collaboratively with other creative scientists to find a drug that would stop the "current" of cancer, like shutting the electricity out of lightbulb rather than smashing it to bits. Now this form of leukemia, which used to have a 5 year survival rate finds 95% of its patients living more than five years. Side note from Chris Coleman that arts education is, of course, a key contributor to the kind of whole-brain thinking that is required here.

11:20 AM Sorry, I need a break to check my emails again. A shout out to RACC staff who are holding down the fort at the office, while many of us are here. Overall attendance is reported at 300. Mike Phillips is talking about "Sax and Creativity" on the mainstage.

12:10. Lunchtime. Wraps and pleasant conversation.

1:10 PM. Five minutes until Michael Rohd goes on to discuss Sojourn's mastery of "Innovation and Civic Participation." Meanwhile, I am hearing lots of good things from people who found it difficult to set aside the time for the conference but are finding it intriguing and even inspiring. I suppose hearing Chris Coleman interview a man who is curing cancer never hurts. Thus my tweet five minutes ago: "The Oregon Arts Summit: Better Than Expected."

1:15 PM, Michael Rohd takes a step back and addresses a question we might have begun with: what is collaboration? It’s a word (like “innovation”) that is in danger of losing its meaning. Now I know that examining definitions can be an endless and excruciating exercise, and I have been in many meetings where entire days were spent defining “art” and “culture” as if no dictionary existed. But this is an important point, because you might get the sense that this summit is proselytizing: “Collaboration is great. Go forth and Collaborate.” I like Michael’s approach that we instead address the goals of any collaboration, and the conditions that can make it fruitful, all the better to take advantage of collaborative opportunities that may arise in our individual and collective futures. Fascinating sidebar on Michael’s current beliefs on the power of theater vs. his prior views. And look for Sojourn’s “On the Table” project coming later this year where they will bring the Sojourn touch to a community exploration of the Urban/Rural Divide.

1:45 PM. Martha Richards makes fun of me for blogging the summit. Can’t blame her. It’s a pretty geeky thing to do!

1:50 PM. Quick briefing on the National Geographic geo-tourism project for the western Cascadia region: Rushing to another room to hear Jeanne Carver and Kim Stafford next. Earlier today, at another briefing that I haven't had a chance to report yet, the Oregon Arts Commission unveiled a Declaration of Creative Rights, a mantra for improving Oregon's K-12 school systems so that the arts can play a key role in the education of every child. Written in part by the same Kim Stafford, the Declaration is now available online here.

2:00 PM. "We are called to belong." I will explain later with a link to Jeanne Carver’s story if I can get my virtual hands on it. A nice presentation by Carver, although I always wish I could have somehow spent the entire day listening to Kim Stafford.

2:45 PM. Listening to U of O dean of Architecture and Allied Arts, Frances Bronet, who facilitated the morning's first conversation with Bob Thompson, talk about the conditions for successful collaboration. I like her, but. It may be because it's nearing the end of the day, or the fact that she has thousands of words on plain powerpoint slides that she's breezing through because she knows there isn't time to go into that level of detail (remember the rule: 10 minutes to talk, and 10 minutes for Q&A), but my interest is waning. There's good stuff in here, but it's clearly formatted as a two-hour lecture, not a ten minute inspirational anecdote. Five more minutes pass and I am enjoying the conversation that she is having now with Randy Gragg on the stage.

Now it's 3:05 PM, and after checking my emails at work and feeling a general sense of prolonged conclusion-making about to commence, I am heading back to the office. I know how a liveblogging event is supposed to end ("Blazers win!") so I regret leaving you hanging, and I know you are incredibly disappointed in me. And, I would have enjoyed sticking around for the social hour, in part to collect other people's impressions -- but alas.

My take: it was a good conference overall, and as I said earlier, better than expected. It's not that my expectations were low, but it would be fair to say that my expectations were mixed, and it's hard to take time out of a busy schedule and pressing issues to attend something that runs the risk of being anything less than thoroughly productive. "The Art of Collaboration" could have been a summit that went, "blah blah blah, blah blah collaboration, blah blah, blah collaboration blah, collaboration." And in some places that IS how it went, but the blahs were mostly interesting and not too blase at all, and that was a nice surprise.

Culture Nerd out.


cynseattle said...

Hooray for MSR making fun of you! Makes me all sentimental...

MightyToyCannon said...

In the world of competitive cultural blogging, Culture Jock takes the prize today. Our Portland Art Watch buddy, Barry Johnson, was also there today and asked how fast I was planning to post my observations. Little did I know that you were already live blogging! I will have a few things to add when I catch my breath. Too bad you missed Barry Lopez's closing comments.

MightyToyCannon said...

One quick correction: The person you refer to as Tucker Wilson is really named Tinker Hatfield. The thrill of live blogging doesn't leave much time for fact checking! Otherwise, nice coverage. Sorry I didn't wave back.

culturejock said...

Yes, I heard that Barry Lopez was very good as usual, so I'm anxious to hear more about that. And god only knows how my fingers came up with "Tucker Wilson" instead of "Tinker Hatfield." WTF? I should know better... I have plenty of family and loved ones who have worked at Nike over the years and regaled me with stories of his Innovative Kitchen chats. But I think that live blogging etiquette allows for corrections such as these to be made directly into the posting even hours later, which I have done -- and I thank you for catching it!