But, that wasn’t the only project members from Creative Oklahoma were hoping to gain traction on at the forum.
“I was there primarily to assist in connecting with other people in the international delegation, trying to encourage them to look at Oklahoma for their 2010 Creativity World Forum,” said Susan McCalmont, a board member of the Oklahoma Creativity Project. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Oklahoma to be featured in a global audience for some of our most important innovation and creativity.”
The Creativity World Forum consists of “Districts of Creativity” all over the world, from Shanghai, to Scotland to Quebec, all with the mission of promoting innovation. Those districts converge every year for panel discussions, trade shows and keynote speakers, such as comedy icon John Cleese, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson and other leaders in finance, business, arts, education and philanthropy.
Oklahoma is the sole District of Creativity within the United States, with the only other North American district located in Canada. Creative Oklahoma organizers hoped they could lure the forum to Oklahoma City as a way to introduce to program to the United States.
“It would also give us a chance to show the United States that we are serious about looking at our people, how creative they are and how we can incorporate those processes in our education, in our businesses and in our government,” said Peter Abramo, executive director of Creative Oklahoma.
More than a week after the forum wrapped and the delegations were back home, Abramo received a phone call announcing that Oklahoma had been awarded the 2010 forum.
Abramo anticipates drawing 1,500 to 2,000 attendees to the forum and hopes that representatives from industry and education across the country will also drop in to see what the organization is all about.
‘WHY IS OKLAHOMA HERE?’
The original District of Creativity was set up in 2004 in Flanders, Belgium, as a government initiative to inspire entrepreneurial ingenuity. In an effort to encourage international collaboration, the program reached out to other countries and helped them set up their own Districts of Creativity. Creative Oklahoma was established in 2006 and was unanimously voted in as a District of Creativity at the 2007 Creativity World Forum in China.
“The timing is just right,” McCalmont said. “Oklahoma just celebrated its centennial and, looking at our 100 years, you can see the ingenuity of our people. This is a specific strategy on how we will develop as a culture over our next 100 years.”
The organization is still working to distinguish the group’s identity, and McCalmont said they are moving into strategic planning on how best to utilize its resources and volunteers. The delegation’s experience in Antwerp helped them collect ideas on how other districts promote creativity, as well as develop global contacts.
A big boon for the forum was that the Oklahomans got to develop an array of contacts with international businessmen and government officials.
“That’s where the real value is: connecting us globally in a way that is unique,” Abramo said. “We really were able to help develop a perception of Oklahoma in Europe that wasn’t there before. We had a booth there, and aside from a couple of the keynote speakers, we were the only American presence. That was a great opportunity because people would stop and ask, ‘Why is Oklahoma here?'”
Creative Oklahoma prepared for the forum by bringing in a full-time staff for the organization and creating Abramo’s executive director position. Previously the executive director of the Center for Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies at Cameron University, Abramo joined Creative Oklahoma a few weeks before the forum.
Abramo was surprised by the degree to which Oklahoma’s District of Creativity differed from others around the world, which tend to focus on commerce and are closely linked with the government.
“All the districts are somehow connected more formally to the government, whether city, regional or on the national level. They get funding directly from their government and somehow report in with a government entity,” he said. “When you talk about education, like how it ties in with your workforce, that is something (other districts) are interested in, but is dealt with by a different agency within the government.”
The educational aspect is where Oklahoma made its mark in Antwerp, specifically with a panel discussion on how to stimulate creativity and entrepreneurship in education. Don Betz, president of Northeastern State University, moderated the discussion, with Jean Hendrickson of Oklahoma A+ Schools sitting in as an expert.
‘RUNNING THE GAMUT’
At the 2010 forum, Abramo said that Creative Oklahoma will continue focusing on innovative teaching programs and techniques.
“We are going to be looking at ways to highlight and get more creativity into the classroom and get creative kids to be more innovative,” he said. “We don’t just want to have educators talking about how we reform education, but get people from different fields talking about it and participating.”
Abramo admitted that Creative Oklahoma is still in the brainstorming phase and hopes that securing the 2010 forum will help draw attention and support to the organization.
Creative Oklahoma already has a few wins under their belt, such as having a hand in the development of University of Central Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music, also known as the “School of Rock.”
There is also a show premiering this spring on OETA titled “State of Creativity.” Derek Watson, the producer, said that “State of Creativity” will be another outlet to shine a light on the range of innovative approaches developed by Oklahomans to better the standard of living of those within the state.
“We are running the gamut of what we can do. Creativity is more than art, more than music, though those are great avenues of creativity,” Watson said. “We are also going to be looking into education, agriculture, law enforcement, science and community service, trying to find creativity in as many different places as possible. When you think about it, it is easy to see how creativity moves through everything and makes an impact on everybody’s lives.”
Creative Oklahoma works to cast a wide net as far as what falls within the realm of “creativity.” Focusing on three primary areas