VCU School of Business aims to drive the future of business through the power of creativity with an artist-in-residence program, where renowned artists encourage creative problem-solving among students, faculty, and staff through prominently displayed art, short courses, and guest lectures.
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Highlighted by a 2010 IBM Global CEO Study, creativity is one of the most sought-after skills for today’s business leaders. Creativity also is growing part of the DNA for Richmond, Virginia, which has a very active, prestigious arts community anchored by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VCU’s School of the Arts (the No. 1 public arts school in the U.S., as ranked by U.S. News & World Report), and the Institute for Contemporary Arts.
Guided by these and other elements, the VCU School of Business founded its new strategic plan on the confluence of business and creativity. The vision aims to “drive the future of business through the power of creativity.” The pillars of the strategic plan are EPIC, where E is experiential learning, P is problem-solving curricula, I is impactful research, and C is creative culture. A creativity and ideation course is now required for all sophomore business students, and various initiatives are underway to infuse creativity (creative thinking) in undergraduate and graduate coursework.
The artist-in-residence solidifies EPIC efforts by helping to infuse creativity throughout the school and directly connect individuals with the mindset, perspectives, and tool sets that artists use. Students, faculty, and staff get to see first-hand how artists are trained to see the world as full of opportunity, solve problems creatively, and create incredible things. The artist-in-residence will hold short courses/seminars, guest lectures, large-scale artwork installations with students, and creativity challenges every semester. While akin to an executive-in-residence, the artist-in-residence provides a necessary perspective that is not inherent in traditional business curricula.
The artist-in-residence program comprises renowned artists hosted for one year to interact with and educate VCU School of Business students, faculty, and staff about creativity and creative problem-solving from an arts perspective.
Noah Scalin is the current artist-in-residence. A celebrated Richmond, Virginia, artist, Scalin gained international attention through the Skull-A-Day project and co-founded Another Limited Rebellion, an art and innovation consulting firm.
Along with conducting a faculty and staff short course, meeting with student groups, and guest lecturing across departments and programs, Scalin kicked off the School of Business first-year student orientation with an exercise that required students to make a face using things in their pockets, wallets, and purses—an exercise that showed how creative one can be. A 30-day creativity sprint was hosted in October, where students were to do something creative every day to practice, hone, and solidify creativity skills.
Scalin also created a pop-up installation using clothing donated by students, faculty, and staff. Titled Portrait of Innovation: Maggie Walker, the installation was a 30-foot by 10-foot portrait of Maggie Walker, a Richmond-based African American entrepreneur and civic leader who broke traditional gender and discriminatory laws by becoming the first woman to establish and become president of a bank in the United States. The installation demonstrated the need for perspective, attracting media attention and generating social media buzz. The clothing was donated to Goodwill once dissembled.
Scalin will continue to conduct creative-thinking seminars, guest lecture, spearhead another 30-day creativity sprint, and create one more large-scale artwork installation.
The artist-in-residence program has accomplished the following: actively engaged students, faculty, and staff; drawn attention to the uniqueness of the arts perspective; and demonstrated how to apply an arts perspective to business contexts and issues. One impact is that many students are commenting on how efforts by the artist-in-residence have changed the way they now look at business and approach business problems. Another impact is that a number of faculty across the school are now incorporating various arts elements into classes. And the program has inspired staff to incorporate various new elements into school operations.
The Richmond community has been quite excited and approving of what the VCU School of Business is doing, too. Feedback from recruiters and advisory boards in the school have been quite positive. The Maggie Walker installation was particularly amazing, creating sizeable social media buzz and presenting first-hand to students, faculty, and staff the importance of perspective.
Overall, the artist-in-residence program has planted seeds for the connection of creativity, creative thinking, and business among all constituencies associated with the VCU School of Business—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the business community at large.