Thursday, Sept 25 | 2:45-4:30 pm

SOCIAL CHANGE | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)

Giving Form to the Intangible: An Essential Skillset for Artists and Leaders

Skye Burn

The core skillset of art-making is the capacity to create tangible forms (dance movements, poems, plays, paintings, songs, sculptures) that capture, embody and reveal intangible contents (feelings, meaning, ideas, vision, soul, the spirit of something). Art stems from a root that means to join together, and artists are experts in unifying form and content.

The process of art-making yields knowledge of the material form realm, as well as knowledge of the intangible realms of meaning and spirit. In working with the medium of clay, for example, a potter learns “that clay has its own life, its own potential and limits, its own integrity. The potter develops a relationship with clay, spending time with it, learning about its properties, how it will interact with water, discovering that if you work it too hard it will collapse, and if you work with it, it will teach you its strengths, your limits, and the possibilities of co-creation” (Parks, 2005, p. 210). As the agent through whom the intangible content is given form and revealed in the world, the artist discovers the integrity of calling and soul purpose, connects with Source, aligns with the intelligence of the work, surrenders, and goes where the work leads.

The knowledge and expertise that artists possess has practical value in the field of leadership (Burn, 2010; De Monthoux, et al, 2007; Jones, xxxx; Parks, 2005; Whyte, 2001). The tremendous challenges we currently face in the world require more than material and technological solutions. To be effective, leaders also need to understand the purpose of our collective activity. As instruments of our collective agency, leaders need to understand what is seeking to be given form and revealed in the world. 


Skye Burn is co-founder and director of The Flow Project. The project engages artists in an inquiry to identify principles and practices of art-making common across mediums, and then uses this knowledge to produce leadership education programs, internationally and locally. Skye has published and presented widely on the relevance of art to leadership and the deep psychology of social change. She holds a BA in the Psychology of the Creative Process and an MA in Leadership in Social Artistry. She is an affiliate of the international network of UNESCO Chairs working to achieve multicultural understanding through interreligious dialogue.

Back to Schedule

Using a Mixed Methods Approach in Arts and Health Initiatives - a Model for Participatory Arts in a Community Health Service

Helen Nikolas

The design of research and evaluation of arts and health initiatives can be strengthened by using qualitative and quantitative strategies, including art-based methods. This provides depth to the data with triangulation of results giving credibility to the outcomes.

Two participatory art works were created, with the assistance of a local council grant, in two reception areas of a community health service (CHS) near Melbourne. With over 130 employees on four sites, the CHS provides allied health, nursing, counselling and dental services to the culturally diverse local community. In the Australian health care system, CHSs provide accessible and affordable health services, particularly for culturally diverse or low socio-economic populations. Referrals come from family physicians, any health service or agency and clients themselves.

An artwork was created in reception on one site. The process was repeated a year later on a second site with equal success. The model involved a skilled artist working with a manager.  Consultation was achieved with an Advisory Group of employees, local stakeholders and consumers who determined initial direction. Decisions were made via e-surveys with many of the users of the sites. Maximum participation was achieved by creating over 100 individual pieces in six workshops for one high quality art work. Quality was achieved with a consistent colour palette, materials and shapes. The same suite of methods was used to measure each project. These included surveys, numbers of participants and pieces and a Likert scale. In addition, photographs with written consent, participant observation, written stories by participants and informal feedback were collected. After six months a retrospective survey was conducted. Objectives were met and outcomes were achieved at an individual, group and organisational level, confirmed by triangulation. 

This session will outline the methods used and share results, followed by a slide show presentation showing the process and outcomes.


Helen Nikolas is a Fellow of the Australian College of Health Service Managers and an executive manager in a Community Health Service in Australia. She has a passion for arts and health and has implemented initiatives in acute and community health services, presenting at national and international conferences. Helen is completing a Dr of Public Health with a focus on arts and health. She is a musician, visual artist and an award winning singer songwriter.

Back to Schedule

Artists Research Hydraulic Fracturing: 4 3 2 CRY, Fracking in Northern Colorado

Kathy Hettinga

Artists are often at the forefront of prophecy. Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas presents environmental dangers that artists dramatize in visual language that demands a response.

A natural gas drilling boom is taking place in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. A "Saudi Arabia" of Natural Gas exists deep under portions of these states. Whole communities have been invaded by hundreds of trucks, drill rigs, and pipelines. The Oscar Nominated film, GASLAND, documents much of this. Citizens in Dimock Pennsylvania have home tap water that can be set on fire as a result of drilling operations. Well water is ruined, environment and health hazards are looming.

But hydraulic fracturing is not just in the eastern states.  Last summer I set out to photograph the effect of hydraulic fracturing upon families, land, air and water in my home state of Colorado, which has seen this type of drilling for oil and gas for three decades. In Northern Colorado—where I worked on a dairy farm, earned my MFA in printmaking, and loved my life at the Johnstown farmhouse—every field has drilling scars. The thousands of gas condensate tanks have innocuous signage—like a playful Mondrian. Research on the deceptive signage reveals such things as: blue 4 = lethal to your health, etc. My book, 4 3 2 CRY, published by Women’s Studio Workshop, utilizes the nomenclature of these signs to build its theme.

I will discuss the work of Josh Fox and other provocative artists who have sought to educate, agitate and organize the public to action.  I will present my research and production of 4 3 2 CRY—a lament for the environment that draws on research into the consequences of fracking.


Kathy T. Hettinga—Distinguished Professor of Art/Design, Messiah College; past Research Fellow, Yale’s Institute of Sacred Arts; and Artist-in-Residence at the Luce Center for Arts and Religion—has exhibited at the Corcoran Museum, Columbia College Chicago, the Museum of Biblical Arts, and internationally. Her artworks are in the collections of the Armand Hammer Museum, UC Berkeley, Denver University, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Harvard’s Fogg Museum, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is published in American Graphic Design Annuals, Virtual Morality, and Next Generation. Her book, Grave Images: San Luis Valley, received the American Association of Museums’ honorable mention.

Back to Schedule