pjhstudios blog

And the arts bring life to your city


“Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms of creativity–artistic and cultural, technological and economic–can take root and flourish.” Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited.

Approximately $300,000 will be cut from the Public Arts budget in Fort Worth, a 25% reduction from 2012. That 25% reduction will multiply into other areas of the Fort Worth economy as the people who will receive those cuts create tremendous value for the city–value the city will lose.

The arts are a tricky thing to value. Painting, photographing, performing, pirouetting, playing with ideas that reflect a culture, mean different things to different people. Through asking a lot of questions and doing math, we can get get a sense of their nominal value. The Arts Council of Fort Worth commissioned a study regarding the impact of the arts to Tarrant County. $200 million dollars coalesce, swirl and reverberate through the economy across industry expenditures, income, taxes and money spent on events.

To echo the point of how amazing that is, consider that Fort Worth contributes $.94 per capita towards the arts. Our Dallas neighbors to the near east–$3.10. Our El Paso (EL PASO!) friends to the far west–$1.95. Per capita measurements are how we make cities equal. And for a city that prides itself in Cowboys and Culture, the per capita measurement of arts investments ought to be an embarrassing shred in the in the back of our jeans.

The study also touched on those that put their painters’ jeans on. 3,000 jobs thread in multiple directions due to the arts. Those are people. Creative people. Creative people who know people. Creative people who attract people who know people who know people.

There’s the rub. There’s the collective tumbleweed blowing through our prarie. There’s the boot in our cowboy rear end.

The arts attract creative people, to create things or events. They bring skills that we can’t send to India or China, and instead apply them to our community. When creative people combine and share ideas, innovation happens. Also, they spend money, they attract night life, they attract more culture and value.

A prime example is the Magnolia corridor. A mix of bars, restaurants, shops, galleries and housing that feels uniquely creative. Property values between 2004 and 2011 increased 137%. Some would say that a vegan restaurant kicked it all off. A vegan restaurant in a steak town attracted so much more.

Much more, innovation, like fortune, favors the bold, the prepared and those who nurture it.

Fort Worth has a choice, one that isn’t zero sum–public policy is rarely zero sum–but one that is nuanced. The city manager stated in the proposed 2013 budget that this budget is a maintenance budget. Yet, they city wishes to grow revenues and increase economic development.

Taking money away in the short term will cause longer term impacts for numerous organizations, and consequently, the city.

If Fort Worth nurtures its arts and creative citizens, makes the policy choice of supporting the arts, it will bring in much more than it invests.

I grew up in surburban Houston, a place without zoning and seemingly any forthought to growth and development. A trip to the museums encompassed a day trip downtown. Nightlife was the movie theater. Street festivals were neighborhood affairs of a lone street with a couple of pies and a few coolers of cold drinks.

In staying here after TCU, I live in a city that astutely manages its land for development. I have five world class museums within a half mile of each other and can visit them all before lunch. Rooftops, live bands, speak easy cocktails and amazing food are a ticket to any night of the week. Street festivals in this city bring in those across state lines.

All of this is possible because we have creative people within City Hall who beleive in what our tax dollars do. These creative people live here for some reason or another. And maybe they stayed because they liked it here. Because it’s a city that supports the arts and creativity. Cowboys that rustle the resources to a diverse Culture that is Fort Worth.

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Creating more Caine’s Arcades


In the 10 minute video, Caine Monroy shows the arcade he built using discarded card board boxes and other supplies behind his father’s shop. It’s a fully realized vision of an arcade with games, a fun pass and prizes. He adapted materials and conformed them into something new, and in a way, it was a means of play to him, to create a mini-business.

Children like Caine should be nurtured. How to do this? Encourage interests in a playful manner. By this, get a child to describe what they’re doing or what they’ve done. Ask them about other ways to do things. Show them new experiences and how one experience can be combined with another. Creativity is all about making connections with disparate things or ideas and putting them into novel or different contexts.

If something isn’t wholly original, point out what you find interesting and ask what if questions. If a child is challenged by a what if question, step back and ask about their favorite activities and how those activities apply to the task at hand.

As a parent, it’s key to expose a child to different experiences. Early in life, reading to a child increases attention spans, curiosity, language skills to express themselves. Seek out field trips for hands on learning and showing them the world. Shy away from using rewards for creative acts–you want a child to develop a strong sense of self-motivation and restraint and to enjoy the process of being creative. Yes, celebrate and recognize the outcome of the creative work, but recognize what they had to do to get to the outcome. Always reframe a child’s failure as a learning experience for them. They can’t change what they did, but they can affect what they do in the future.

Here’s a detailed list of creativity for children.

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It takes work to become awesome at kicking ass


Over the past week, the theme of posts in my RSS feeds revolved around learning, careers and personal growth. Some ranged from calls to action–we need to rethink our entire education system for todays world. Others spoke of self reliance, be aware and do your best to kick butt. A few were introspective, realizations of actions.

Seth Godin released an expansive manifesto, called Stop Stealing Dreams. Every group imaginable related to schooling, learning, employing, policy making receives commentary.  Schools are holdovers from the industrial age. Parents and teachers are complicit in encouraging obedience instead of passion and imagination. Employers seek those who say yes. Policy makers make uninformed decisions that ignore real needs. Godin includes statistics when needed, references academic research and includes colorful anecdotes. One such anecdote recalls an email from a blog reader critiquing the use of bespoke, instead of custom.

My blog is hardly filled with words most educated citizens would have trouble understanding. And yet a cable TV–inoculated audience wants everything dumbed down to the Kardashian level. This relentless push for less (less intelli- gence, less culture, less effort) is one of the boogiemen facing anyone who would mess with the rote rigor of mass schooling.

It seems to recallIdoiocracy, where the future is a dystopian state of passive entertainment for the lowest common denominator.

Andrew Olsen, takes a less passive route, believing the best skill you can learn, and possibly the only skill you need is the ability to learn. From this principle, he lists a 100 ways to be successful without going to college.

In this world, the only skill you really need is the ability to learn new things. If you know how to read (really read) and absorb new information, your knowledge will be far deeper than the average college graduate who listened to lectures and filled in bubbles on tests.

I agree with his principle of being able to learn is the best skill to have. It goes along with being able to figure things out–take the most basic thing you know about what you’re working on and build from there. Granted, this can’t be applied to every aspect of your life (how many people can repair an engine?), but for most knowledge worker tasks, it can.

Where I disagree with him is the value of college.  College is a safe environment to learn about life and how to manage it. How do you balance work (classes) and life (social gatherings) and coping with the stress it brings. That should be emphasized more than the degree one works towards. As Therese Schwenkler says, “your college degree will not get you the job you deserve“.

Her post led me to Charlie Hoehn’s Recession Proof Graduate. It provides interesting strategies to always be employable, the primary way, he suggests, is to work for free.  It’s a gamble and a method that should not be the norm. It’s sad that for someone to gain experience, employers can essentially receive free labor. Perhaps, one should follow Jessica Hische’s Should I Work for Free flowchart.

Or, instead of a flowchart, how about Jesse Thorn’s Make Your Thing: 12 Point Program for Absolutely, Positively 1000% No-Fail Guaranteed Success. It references his experiences and those mostly in the creative fields. The best takeaway:

I hear from so many people who have a great idea. The difference between the successful ones and the unsuccessful ones is that the successful ones do it, then do it again and again.

As we become successful, we’ll encounter others with ideas that are different than our own. Jason Freid suggests giving things 5 minutes.

His response changed my life. It was a simple thing. He said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right. I came into the discussion looking to prove something, not learn something.

Similarly, Dustin Curtis thinks of 3 questions to asks the individual.

All this seems like a lot to take in. It is. Like driving a car, everything’s new and we’re hyperaware or don’t recognize patterns and habits. Over time, the things we learn, want to learn and apply to our daily lives, become innate habits we don’t even think about. This is true for bad habits, and with awareness, we can change them.

Like good habits, tt takes work to become awesome at kicking ass.

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Review: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry


Todd Henry provides a framework to systemize creativity in The Accidental Creative: How to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. The first three chapters cover “the dynamics” of creative work–what it is, creative team work and things that can sabotage creativity.  These chapters set up the “creative rhythm”, being cognitively aware of the dynamics of creativity to do creative work.

In the rhythm, Henry discusses being able  to identify what’s important, maintaining healthy relationships, staying healthy to do creative work, one’s environment (or stimuli), how much time to do creative work.  The last two chapters tie his concepts together with examples of his own personal implementation.  The index in the back of the book is useful for further reading, as he cites books he referenced to formulate his ideas.  The book is pretty close to a how to book on being creative as you can get, however, you need ideas to work with, which he discusses and suggests to set aside time each day just to think up new ideas.  Accidental creative starts slow (for me at least) and contains concepts and tips found elsewhere.  I’d recommend this as a starter book and take concepts needed to get stuff done.

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Recent non-fiction reads


HBR’s 10 Must Reads The Essentials – This complilation collects 10 articles that business leaders should readily consider–strategies for broad aspects of business.  Each article is summarized in a side bar with the key points. This is handy as the articles are 20-30 pages in length.  Drucker, Porter, Christensen are all present with topics covering leadership, innovation, strategy, analytics and more.  Standout articles: Michael Porter’s “What is Strategy?” and John P. Kotter’s “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail”.  If you have access to a good library, you should be able to find these articles, and with some effort, Google Scholar can dig them up.

Click by Ori and Rom Brafman – Ever wonder what causes people to click? Ori and Rom divulge five factors: vulnerability, proximity, resonance, similarity and shared adversity. Also, there are individuals who can adjust their temperament to their circumstance, which they call high self monitors. The book is a quick read, under 200 pages, and illustrates each point with well told stories.

Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman – Ever wonder what MBAs learn? Josh Kaufman distills key, critical and essential concepts and principles across all facets of business.  From the hard numbers of accounting, fuzziness of marketing and organizational development to fluidity of strategy, each concept is summarized and provided an example.  It’s not meant to be read straight through, it’s meant to be read as a reference, or perhaps a means to translate business lingo into something concrete and meaningful.

Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander – Across 12 points, uplifting and inspirational stories are used to tell the power of being inclusive, constructive, positive and seeking understanding.  Definitely worth a reread to focus on doing good things and keeping a good mindset.

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