Sometimes in Philadelphia it seems as if every public leader ends up enmeshed in controversy and scandal.
That’s not true, really. The city is full of exemplary leaders doing extraordinary things.
But those leaders often operate apart from highly covered arenas such as politics and sports. To notice them, you have to broaden your definition of “leader” and look beyond the usual suspects who dominate the media.
Leadership Philadelphia began its Connectors project in 2005 to shine a light on all the good leadership that happens in this region, and to see whether that public praise might encourage more leaders to step up.
In the third phase of that effort, Leadership Philadelphia has compiled a list of the top 76 Creative Connectors, members of the local arts and culture community who are the glue that binds it together.
They and their work are honored in this multimedia presentation on NewsWorks. Stop back throughout the next year to see more in-depth profiles of the most creative leaders in our town.
Connectors is a term drawn from Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, The Tipping Point, referring to people who serve as civic hubs without needing to gain credit or riches from their work. Our first Connectors’ list looked at the civic sphere generally, the second at younger leaders.
These 76 Creative Connectors are the folks in the region’s cultural scene who seem to know everyone, connect for the common good, and get things done without worrying about who gets the credit. That’s leadership.
Working with WHYY/NewsWorks, Leadership Philadelphia identified these leaders this summer through an online citizen survey.
These 76 are the people most often cited by their peers for using art, culture, and design to build community and economic vitality. They are entrepreneurial professionals with an agenda for action. Though animated by highly personal visions, these connectors are committed to seeking common ground.
Here are some examples of Creative Connector leadership:
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Drew Becher plants a pop-up garden on a vacant lot in the middle of the City. Citizens pour in to see the beauty and learn about flowers and food. Suddenly they are talking to strangers, feeling like they belong. That’s leadership.
Philadelphians pour into the Merriam Theater to watch a funky international troupe of acrobat artists defy gravity, causing gasps from grandparents, grandchildren, curious suburbanites and artsy urbanites. This cross-section of citizens shares two hours of joy, thrills, and escape from everyday cares. This unlikely collection is assembled by the work of Fringe Festival producer Nick Stuccio. That’s leadership.
Seated on a bus, Amy Scheidegger overhears a conversation about the worthlessness of art. Determined to disprove this belief, she takes a stand and collects stories, convening a range of artists to join her in this war of words to prove the value of arts. The Artistic Rebuttal Book Project is born. That’s leadership.
The impact of Creative Connectors is felt throughout the City. From the mural on the airport parking garage to concerts at the Mann, from performances at Pig Iron Theater to student gatherings at International House, Creative Connectors work to make their piece of Philadelphia engaging, inspiring, and accessible. That’s leadership.
Philadelphia deserves good leadership and gets it from the Creative Connectors. Yes, those who make headlines sometimes make us cringe, but the often-unseen Creative Connectors give us hope. They give leadership a good name and inspire others to follow their lead.
Creative Connectors may not make big headlines, but they are a force of uncommon goodness working behind the scenes weaving a civic safety net to keep us together.
Elizabeth Dow is president and CEO of Leadership Philadelphia.