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In Nov. 2021 after ten years of our evolving mission and impact, we changed our name to Gathering Ground. You may still find reference to our old name Creative New Jersey in posts created prior to Nov. 2021.

The Intersection of Creativity and Community

Originally posted on the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Blog.

Intersections are places of movement, excitement, and sometimes danger.   When we enter an intersection, we are presented with a choice: do we go straight through?; turn right or left?; spin around the circle for a few times until we are sure of our exit?  Intersections encourage us to set aside assumptions because their dynamic nature delivers surprises that one can never be too sure of predicting.   By design, intersections dissolve boundaries and pave the way for cooperation and shared space.

I’m a huge fan of meeting at the intersection and our Creative New Jersey movement fosters this approach in communities around our state.   We leap into that unknown space where creativity and innovation can bloom, and in all 21 counties there are hundreds of examples of sustainable community activities that started with a creative spark.  Remember hearing about our Creative Monmouth and Creative MoCo convenings in 2012 and early 2013?  The MoCo Arts Corridor Partnership gained steam during our convening…..they drove straight through the intersection charging forward to their destination!  Last month, Bloomfield College’s Center for Creative Placemaking presented a video of The MoCo Arts Corridor Partnership during a panel session at the United Nations.  Congratulations MoCo!

Each of our creative communities is involved in moving the needle forward toward a more innovative and sustainable future, and our CNJ steering committee members are leading the creativity charge in numerous ways.   CNJ member Ennis Carter and Social Impact Studios continue to push the boundaries of creativity all the while freely sharing their knowledge and learning with all of us.  For all who are involved with your municipality, remember that our friends at Sustainable Jersey have added a new section of creativity actions to their certification program.   And last week, Ann Marie Miller’s blog post highlighted many of the exciting creative placemaking activities happening throughout NJ.  Our diverse committee members offer up a myriad of choices for turning left, right or heading straight on through.

The explosion of creative ideas—many of which whiz around the circle until the right exit becomes clear—begin with committed individuals responding to a need to improve a particular situation.  There is urgency behind this creative thinking and the innovation is born not from pie-in-the-sky dreaming but from acknowledging the current constraints and designing creative solutions that transform those limitations.  In Trenton, some of our convening participants grappled with defining solutions to high incarceration rates, homelessness, and lack of employment opportunities in the city.  In Highlands (one of our Sandy-impacted communities), these community members are convening on May 2 to answer the question:  How do we use creativity and innovation to galvanize our diverse community so as to honor our heritage, embrace revitalization, and move towards a sustainable Highlands? Indeed the stakes are high in communities damaged by Sandy and there is a tremendous amount of excellent and creative recovery work taking place around the state by our fellow New Jersey Recovery Fund grantees.  We are pleased to collaborate with Sustainable Jersey, Citizens Campaign, New Jersey Future, Clean Ocean Action, and Monmouth Arts in Highlands, along with many other Recovery Fund partners other Sandy communities.

As we head into spring, I see examples of creativity left behind in the tire tracks in the snow.  Reach out to us and tell us how creativity intersects in your community so we can champion your innovative ideas and help to strengthen our statewide creative web.

Elizabeth Murphy is the part-time Director of Creative New Jersey.  She also consults with other nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, including the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers where she provided coordination of the Post-Sandy Philanthropic Response in NJ.

Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy.

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“The Orange Call to Collaboration ushered in a period of increased collaboration among the municipality, school district and nonprofit and community-based organizations.”

– Robin Gordon – Director of Administration, HANDS INC. (Orange)