Creative Thinking in Business + Arts Partnerships

“When arts and businesses partner, everyone profits.”

That’s the goal, in short, of the pARTnership Movement, an initiative from Americans for the Arts to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.

It’s also something we’ve known and practiced for close to 10 years.

The Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Art + Innovation – our unique artist-led, experiential creative thinking program – has been teaching individuals, teams, and organizations a specialized set of skills that invigorate businesses and deliver results.


The pARTnership Movement recently featured the Innovation Institute in their essay, Foster Critical Thinking. The essay builds up their big idea, and what the Innovation Institute accomplishes, from the start: “Art partnerships can help a company encourage critical thinking and thereby boost innovation among employees.”

However, companies, teams, and leaders shouldn’t do it alone. 

“To produce the biggest creative spark, you might have to reach outside your organization even further. An external partner could push you out of your comfort zone, like the Innovation Institute, a program that pairs executives with professional artists and expert facilitators to help businesspeople unleash their own creative abilities and stimulate creativity in their companies.”


Fabi Preslar, president of Charlotte-based SPARK Publications, is featured as a case study in the essay. The Innovation Institute made an immediate and significant impact on her business and personal creativity.

“Just to hear how these [Innovation Institute] artists find inspiration in their everyday experiences helped reawaken my creativity,” says Preslar. With her new perspective, she was able to make the bold decisions needed to reinvigorate her business. 

Preslar made some adjustments to her business and “revenue jumped 118 percent in the year after her graduation from the [Innovation] Institute and then rose another 19 percent the following year.”


Bigger organizations can benefit from the team building opportunities at the Innovation Institute, too.

Bob Hambright of Centex Construction (subsequently acquired by Balfour Beatty Construction) sent a team of executives to participate in the Innovation Institute program. 

“To me, the Innovation Institute ended up being a good way to stretch people’s minds. I think that spending time with right-brained artists and participating in these art activities helped them appreciate people with different skills from their own. Their time at the [Innovation] Institute helped them appreciate the importance of creativity in finding the best business solutions.”

It worked in Hambright and Centex’s favor, too. The idea for a “bold new HR model for how the company should hire, retain, and develop its people” was created by one of the executives immediately after the program.

“I give the [Innovation] Institute a lot of credit for creating an environment that enables the right person to create something innovative that they can take back to their company,” says Hambright. “That’s what you want to happen. You want to expose people to new ways of thinking that let them find better ways to seize opportunities or overcome challenges. And I think the Innovation Institute opens people’s minds in ways that can make that happen.”

How can your team or business benefit from new ways of thinking? Imagine what empowering your employees with creativity skills, and their practical application, can do for your company. Let’s talk about it. Contact us to learn more.