What Art Offers Leadership
Society tends to value artists for the products they create, not for the experience and knowledge they have gained through the process of creating art. Artists have been creating art for millennia yet their experience is considered irrelevant when it comes to solving real world problems. World leaders have almost no knowledge of the principles of art and artistic forces that shape the world. Business and government leaders understand the principles of economics and economic and political forces that shape the world, and they respond to situations according to their understanding of these principles and forces. Leaders do not take the principles of art and artistic forces into account in responding to situations that develop in the world. The Flow Project brings the experience and knowledge of art to leadership. We work with artists to identify principles of art common to the artistic experience across mediums, and we work with leadership educators to translate the principles of art into principles of leadership and leadership practices. We engage artists in a systematic inquiry that involves working with their mediums and reflecting on the process. We offer educational programs to leaders. The work has begun to yield promising results, both in terms of generating insight into the world situation and in inspiring artists to take active leadership roles. Areas where we see the practice of art informing the practice of leadership include: the artist’s ability to trust the process, sensing what wants to emerge, understanding the creative value of conflict and resistance, and the skill to create tangible forms that capture, embody, and reveal intangible essences. This skill is proving relevant in helping leaders understand what it takes to create organizations, institutions, and a world that embody intangible elements such as the spirit of unity, spirit of compassion, and sense of peace.
Skye Burn is Executive Director of The Flow Project. The Flow Project mission is to answer the question: How can we integrate the principles of art into the practice of leadership? In addition, Skye is a Fellow of the UNESCO Chair for Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue, housed at the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, and serves on the board of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue at the University of Oregon, which houses the UNESCO Chair for Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue and Peace. She is a poet, non-fiction writer, visual artist, and cabinet maker with a BA in the Psychology of the Creative Process and an MA in Leadership in Social Artistry.