Post image for About To Take Off

(This post was originally posted on Think It, Do It, Blog It as part of  The MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program. We’re cross-posting on the Circle to better highlight the work of our grantees.)

By Alan Berks, Pillsbury House Theatre

Why is it that when more time appears to be available less gets done? I’ve found it hard to post on this blog this month even though Pillsbury House Theatre doesn’t have a show opening for another month and a half. This has been a month for strategic thinking and, surprisingly, strategic thinking fills up as much time as is available to be filled.

Add to that the fact that we’re more than 2/3 of the way through our first Cultural Community Hub Institute—so it feels as though we’re perched right on the precipice of something—either a great fall or a really nice trip through the air. That sense of anticipation rather than accomplishment also makes it hard to think of what to say this month.

I can briefly touch on some of the ideas that have so far come about from the heads-togetheredness that has been happening here.

1. Every Wednesday night and Saturday morning, our building is packed with people waiting to take advantage of the Integrated Health Clinic (acupuncture, massage, etc.). Rather than just staring into space, six employees from different programs in the building are putting their heads together on what kind of artistic programming we might create and offer in what is essentially a clinic waiting room. It’s a captive audience. We should take advantage.

2. Last Monday, the Day Care presented a Martin Luther King tribute with singing and dancing on the Pillsbury House Theatre stage for the parents and surrounding community that was so wildly successful they have plans to do arts-related presentations with the toddlers every three months now. One of our resident artists was instrumental in motivating and assisting the Day Care Instructors in making this happen.

3. In a small coffee shop down the street, one of our resident artists has organized a bi-weekly open mic where teenagers from our youth program can present some of their work AND she’s called in her peers, some of the very spoken word and hip hop artists in the Twin Cities to serve as both guest artists and guest judges. So, youth in the neighborhood get to share their work publically, see incredible and successful artists in their field perform, and get feedback about their work from those same artists—all while chilling at a coffee shop on a Friday night.

All of these are just things that a bunch of people around this building have started to think about and make happen simply because they’ve been challenged to integrate the arts with the social service mission of our Pillsbury House’s parent organization Pillsbury United Communities.

Does it sound like I’m bragging or something? I don’t mean to be. I’m just kind of amazed—and I don’t think we’ve even really begun to do all that we can.
Here’s one idea that I especially like just for its simple unpretentiousness and fun. Not every idea has to reinvent the wheel:

4. During our Cultural Community Hub Institute, we kept hearing the refrain that employees were amazed at all the different work that was being done around them by other employees—that they didn’t know about. If only they knew. . . So a few staff members and resident artists are developing the idea that our monthly building Staff Meetings will be “hosted” by a different program in the building and that program will be responsible for entertainment and information around what they do with the arts and in the building. Food, exercises, demonstrations, whatever they feel they need to do to be good hosts. Sounds like a simple way to make staff meetings much more enjoyable while also connecting people in a way that is sure to be effective down the road.

. . .I think. . .

As I said above, we’re in the process right before take-off right now, so we’ll see over the next couple months how each of these develop and how we evaluate and define success with each endeavor.