Create Forward, the company, officially launched on February 9, 2015 but the Create Forward the idea began with a broken heart and a willing spirit Labor Day weekend 2014. I was on a personal retreat at Omega Institute, as a guest of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. OWLC offers retreats to women leaders from around the world. A rare yet vital opportunity to rest and reflect on your leadership for a few days while staying in the beautiful Juno Cottage on the grounds of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. It had been a long while since I had a break but I was also at a crossroads professionally and wanted to determine my next steps. I wanted to make good use of the three days away to do some planning. Yet, once I walked into my cottage the full weigh of fatigue seem to descend upon me and I just couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t keep doing, doing, doing without stopping a moment to check in with my spirit and make sure all this motion was in alignment with what matters most to me. In fact, I wasn’t sure I really remembered what mattered most to me.
What I needed more than anything was to be still and so I did nothing. I made no decisions that weekend. I did not plan and chart out my path. I just made myself fully available to the present moment. I meditated, walked the grounds, got a massage, sat on the porch, read, and rested. Then it happened: the end of the 2nd, I grabbed my sketchpad, and I wrote the word “INQUIRY and then the word IMAGINATION. I stayed with those two words and trusted that when the time was right I would know what it meant. I returned home having made only one decision about my career: I did not want to go to work for another non-profit. There was not one job out there that I was excited about applying for, which meant that I was going to work for myself. So I had one decision: I would work for myself, and I had two words: inquiry and imagination.
Two days later, I received an email from 651 Arts inviting me to facilitate a creative think tank that would be guided by a single inquiry question. And that is how Create Forward began to take shape: Faith, listening to spirit, and saying yes when opportunities were revealed.
Five months later, I left my job and woke up on Monday, February 9, 2015 the founder and Chief Creative Strategist at Create Forward LLC. A year later and I stand in awe of what we’ve accomplished:
- Designed and facilitated imaginative containers for dialogue, community building, and social change with 18 clients and partners.
- Reached more than 3000 people through events, trainings, and performances.
- Convened the first Summit on Youth Education at Rikers Island to question, challenge, and exchange best practices across organizations serving incarcerated youth. We centered the arts and social justice education in this convening.
- Joined the Humanities Action Lab team as Community Engagement Strategist to design the “States of Incarceration” exhibit, which will travel to 20 cities and reach over 500,000 people in the next three years.
- Received funding from North Star’s Let Us Breathe Fund and the New York Humanities Council to fund creative strategies dreamt up in our Forward Innovation Lab.
But most of all we built community and we believed, believed, believed in the radical possibilities of the collective imagination. Cheers to another year! Let’s Create Forward!