Community Projects: Creative Community Leadership Institute

An integrative leadership development initiative
The Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI) is a cross-sector professional development program for social innovators from diverse fields who use arts-based strategies to achieve community development goals, such as physical place-making, economic development and robust community relationships (social capital development).

Intermedia Arts and the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) co-founded the Institute for Creative Community Development (ICCD) in 2002 to catalyze a network of leadership for arts-based community development in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The name was changed to the Creative Community Leadership Institute in 2010 to reflect the Institute's focus on community innovation.

CCLI exists to advance work at intersection of art and community development towards more caring and capable communities. Through CCLI leaders from the worlds of art and community development in and around the Twin Cities come together to learn, to forge new and/or more effective partnerships, and to take their work to the next level.

Resource Articles by Wendy Morris written for CCLI

CCLI Founding Faculty Team

  • Wendy Morris
  • William Cleveland, Director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community and author of Art in Other Places and Art and Upheaval
  • Erik Takeshita, Senior Program Officer at LISC and former Senior Policy Aide for the Mayor of Minneapolis

CCLI Fellows
Each cohort is made up of 12-14 professionals from public policy, the arts, community development, urban planning, social services, and community organizing who are nominated and selected for their work in the field and leadership potential.

CCLI Structure and Curriculum
CCLI is a 5-month training program of monthly learning retreats with collaborative projects between sessions. Sixty fellows have graduated from CCLI.

The CCLI curriculum (see outline below) is a learning journey from preparation through evaluation, which parallels the journey of arts-based community development work itself. The founding faculty team, with input from colleagues at LISC and Intermedia Arts. used the curriculum design process to build our own collaborative relationships by discovering each other's values, assumptions, skills and areas of content expertise. Our facilitation process is emergent and highly responsive to the evolving needs of the fellows. Faculty solicits feedback with each session to make curricular revisions that meet the changing needs of the group.

Session # 1

Community & Cultural Development: Getting to Know the Field and Ourselves

What are the various definitions, myths, and perceptions that impact arts and community development fields? What is Art? What is Community? What is Community Development? What is the History and Ecology of Arts-Based Community Development? Where am I? Where do I fit?

Session # 2

Setting the Table

Where do I want to be? What do I want to do? What do I know? Where does my organization what to be? What do artists, arts organizations, and community partners need to know before entering into collaborations? What questions do I need to ask? Where do I find the answers? What is my own capacity for this work? What is my organization’s capacity for this work?

Session # 3

Environment: Recognizing Rank and Privilege

How do I recognize my own rank and power? Is the accumulation of power intrinsically negative? How can power be positive? How can it be negative? How can I use rank and privilege as tools for community change?

Session # 4

Diversity of Learning Styles, Conflict Resolution & Motivating Others

How do I learn and interact most effectively? How do we generate a climate of respect for different ways of learning and communicating with each other, with partners and with community?

Session # 5

Authentic and Appropriate Partnerships: Organizing and Advocacy

What skills do partners need to enter into successful collaborations? How do partners find common ground and mutual self-interest? What is organizing and how does it relate to the arts and community development?

Session # 6

Authentic and Appropriate Partnerships: Partnership Strategies

How can partners work together to avoid and solve disagreements?

How do partners share power, define success, and build trust?

What does it take to create a successful long-term partnership?

Session #7

Sustainability: Clarity and Purpose- Articulating Our Message

How do artists and community developers access funds and resources differently? How can we work together to find creative ways to sustain our work?

Session #8

Evaluation and Public Relations

How do we know if we have succeeded in doing what we set out to accomplish? What data and information is useful and relevant to your various partners (community partners, funders, media, government, etc.)?

Session #9

Open Space Technology: Taking Stock of the Journey

Where am I? How am I going to take the Institute home? (Note: Open Space Technology is a convening process in which participants self-organize around the questions, insights and issues that are of critical importance to them. For more about OST, click on

Session # 10

Open Space Technology and Graduation

Inquiries and challenges
How to foster a vital and effective learning network that advances the practice of arts-based community development in the Twin Cities?

How do you grow an emerging field? Although the practice of bringing communities together through art is ancient, the field of Community Cultural Development is new. New professions have fewer resources (national organizations, journals, convening events, theory, training materials...) than established fields. An ongoing challenge of CCLI is to define (and re-define) what we mean when we combine the words community, culture and development. Stories provide critical examples of effective real world practice.

How do you cultivate coherence in a highly diverse learning community?
With groups as diverse as CCLI, one person's preferred mode of inquiry is inevitably on the edge of someone else's comfort zone. In order to address the spectrum of learning styles, backgrounds, knowledge, skills and needs among our fellows, the faculty incorporates multiple modes of inquiry in every session including writing, dialogue, case study analysis, movement, making...

Based on formal evaluation we know that CCLI has a significant impact on how the fellows view themselves, their work and their communities. Fellows report that they are better prepared to form partnerships, they have a stronger networks of colleagues and they better understand differences in how others think and learn.

Fellows are also having significant impacts on the geographic and organizational landscapes of the Twin Cities. Local media frequently cover stories about the innovative work of CCLI fellows:

  • Urban design charrettes that empower youth to envision the future of their communities (Juxtaposition Arts in collaboration with the University of Minnesota)
  • An urban design plan in South Minneapolis that uses the arts as a key strategy for community engagement and place-making (Community Design Group)
  • A neighborhood association organizes residents to paint their street intersections as a creative way to slow traffic and bring neighbors together (Hamline Midway Coalition)
  • A mosaic supply store and resource center that engages community through mosaic arts to enhance a commercial streetscape (Mosaic-On-A-Stick in collaboration with the City of St. Paul)
  • A highly-regarded community development corporation that embeds arts-based organizing as a youth development strategy (Hope Community)

AS a network of individuals and organizations, CCLI has become a vital force for positive change in our communities.

Wendy's learnings

By facilitating CCLI, I deepened my understanding of the dynamics of human systems. This understanding informs how I design all my work so that my efforts have increased likelihood of resulting in sustainable, transformative change. Despite differences in vocabulary and tools, community developers and artists who engage communities share much in common. I came to CCLI with a rich background in community-engaged artmaking, so I knew a lot about how to collectively shape ideas into artistic forms. CCLI showed me how ideas manifest into housing, economic development initiatives, or social services. Social and economic needs inform policy, and policy shapes the structures of our collective life -- from buildings to law.

Greater impact happens by investing in local leadership development. CCLI was founded with the belief that the future health of our communities demands new creative cross-sector leadership at every level. The ripples of impact of CCLI become more obvious and apparent over time.

Stories have the power to generate a shared understanding that connects people to one another.
I have come to appreciate the vital role stories play in both community development and community-engaged artmaking. This is a change for me. I have always been drawn more to direct experience than to stories. For example, the sensation and movement of a hand on a cheek is inherently more interesting to me than the interpretation, meaning or context for the hand on the cheek, that is, the story of the hand on a cheek. (This is probably why I became a dancer and a meditator, two activities that invoke immediate experience rather than story).

"Stating the obvious" is a simple, but helpful, stepping-stone to more inclusive communication.
Because CCLI fellows are so diverse, an observation that is obvious to one person is often revelatory to another. One of our working practices is to "state the obvious", that is, to name our assumptions out loud. By remembering to "state the obvious" I create a greater likelihood that my message will be understood in the way I mean it. (For more about communication in community-engaged art practice, click on Interpersonal Communication Skills in Community Art: An Introduction to the Awareness Wheel.)

Placemaking is a collaborative creative process.
Each CCLI session meets in a different site such as:

  • Hope Community - a thriving multi-cultural campus of affordable housing
  • East Village - a small urban village on the edge of downtown
  • Homewood Studios - an artists' workspace and small community meeting space in North Minneapolis.

At each location we hear the "creation story" of the site, which makes explicit the creative process behind placemaking.

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