Exploring the innovative power of the arts for entrepreneurs and the community

Art has a unique power to engage and transform participants. A talented painter can evoke deep thought within a viewer while a musician can encourage listeners to break out into song and dance. This power can me magnified by innovation and used by entrepreneurs to transform entire communities. Here in the West Valley, artist-entrepreneurs are innovating to meet community needs and effectively adapting to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fall 2020, ASU Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute’s Peoria Forward, the City of Peoria and televëda teamed up to highlight this innovation with the Exploring Peoria Entrepreneurship interactive virtual series. The project brought together local entrepreneurs and community figures to discuss how they met the challenges of the pandemic, how they are staying engaged and what resources are available to help. Community members were able to watch as well as participate in the live-streamed conversation through televëda’s on-line learning platform.

This four-part series was recorded so that the important lessons and resources can continue to be shared with the community. Links to these videos will be available through posts in this blog. Check out the below list of sessions to see which theme interests you and keep an eye out for the upcoming posts.

Image: Kristin Slice, Peoria Forward, interviewing Connie Whitlock, founder of WHAM, in Exploring Peoria Entrepreneurship: Part 3

The third part of the Exploring Peoria Entrepreneurship series introduces two local entrepreneurs from a community arts organization, a digital art entrepreneur, and the Arts and Events Manager for the City of Peoria. We first meet Connie Whitlock, founder of WHAM (What’s Happen’n Art Movement), and Carree Tolle, Program Manager at WHAM. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Connie started WHAM after noticing the lack of community arts organizations in the West Valley at the time when she moved from California. Their mission to bring arts to people of all ages, races and abilities has led expansion to meet new community needs including PTSD therapy for veterans and at-risk youth programs. Connie shares how the organization has innovated over the years including creating a mobile version called WHAM On Wheels to reach people who are unable to travel as well as a CDC-compliant version of its programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next, Caitlin Penny, founder of Copper Theory Creative, shares her journey starting a graphic design company as well as her techniques for collaborating with customers on a design project. One significant technique is the thoughtful application of classic marketing skills to the creative process in order to achieve unique and meaningful products. Caitlin then shares tips for how to be a successful artist entrepreneur including using your unique experience as a starting point and telling a story with your work.

Part 3 wraps up with an exciting conversation with Marylou Stephens, Arts and Events Manager for the City of Peoria. Marylou shares how the arts are a major economic driver in Peoria as well as a powerful tool for growing and supporting the community. She also explores how the City of Peoria has innovated to transform underutilized spaces into thriving arts connection platforms and innovated again in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marylou’s examples include the power of inclusion and how inviting diverse parts of the community to participate strengthens arts programs and thus the community as a whole.

Video link: Click here to watch Exploring Peoria Entrepreneurship: Part 3

Key takeaways from the interviews:

  • Find the need and then build real value. Pay attention to what challenges your community is facing and then create effective solutions.
  • Think outside of the box. When faced with a challenge, allow yourself to brainstorm new ideas—even if they sound crazy at first.
  • Include diverse voices. Having a variety of perspectives strengthens your work by ensuring that it holistically addresses challenges with truly effective solutions

Check back next month for the next part in the Exploring Peoria Entrepreneurship series!

Want more information? Visit the Peoria Forward website by clicking here and reach out to [email protected] with your questions or comments.

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