This is for saying YES

Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, spoke to a group of people at LARAC yesterday about how the arts can revitalize a community. I was glad to be there. The dude is brilliant. I had no idea what Proctors did for Schenectady, and the crazy huge impact it’s had. I just liked going there for shows.

He eloquently expressed the importance of creative solutions, giving the example of a wastewater treatment plant that was to go into a wetlands, and how disastrous that sounded. But they ended up making a series of small concrete ponds that is a much sought-after wedding location now; a beautiful park. I love it.

It’s a little bit of what I mean when I talk about paths in the woods — those moments where you’re maybe a little lost, and you realize you could go in any direction. Everything looks like a path. But then something clicks and you find the real way. The best way. There are “good enough” ways, and then there are brilliant ways that make complete sense and a shining light goes on to light your way and harps play. It’s so satisfying to find the path that was there.

Another concept that Mr. Morris presented that really hit home was the importance of working together on things. We are so, so, so much stronger when we join forces.

Looking around the room at the dynamos who decided to come and listen, it struck me what an amazing impact we could have if we all went in on a concept together. Something that would have a positive ripple into our fields of membership organizations, arts organizations, venues, galleries, museums, nonprofits, artists, media, creative businesses… What could we brainstorm together? What could we make happen? Something amazing. Fireworks.

I wonder if others felt this way, but I had a strong impulse to stay after the talk and brainstorm with these folks about what we could accomplish together that would change the world. Let’s do it.

Here are some gems that fell from Mr. Morris’ mouth that I wrote down and wanted to share. Quotes are direct from him, other words are my paraphrasing.

  • “Art for Art’s Sake.” It’s got its place, but what’s better? Art with a purpose. “It’s beautiful, but it’s DOING something.”
  • “Leverage every opportunity to create change.”
  • Sharing resources benefits EVERYONE.
  • “The more the surrounding suburbs view us as their city, the better off the arts will be.”
  • Proctors’ mission includes community leadership and economic development. It’s not only about art for art’s sake. It’s doing something.
  • “Applying creativity works anywhere.”
  • “Figure out before you get there how you’re going to get to a YES. A NO is often based on money.”
  • Piggybacking on tourism is an opportunity, not a challenge.
  • “It’s about YES. We can only do what we can agree to do together. And that’s work.”
  • “If you stop being successful, you’re dead.”
  • “Have an attitude of growth or you’re going to enter a spiral down that’s going to be very difficult to climb out of.”
  • “We invent. Every day.”
  • “Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Invent, invent, invent, invent.”
  • “TRIP: Trust, Research, Invent, Progress.”

I love yes. I’m reminded of this Andrea Gibson poem. Please, please give it a listen. Or read the lyrics. It’s so incredibly true.

when two violins are placed in a room
if a chord on one violin is struck
the other violin will sound the note
if this is your definition of hope
this is for you
the ones who know how powerful we are
who know we can sound the music in the people around us
simply by playing our own strings

— Andrea Gibson

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, the Jackson Heights Elementary School PTA, Lower Adirondack Pride, and is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.