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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 6 months ago

Florida Creativity Conference attracts individuals of varying disciplines

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The Sarasota-based event this weekend is comprised of three days worth of unique workshops.
by: Niki Kottmann Managing Editor of Arts and Entertainment

Creativity comes in many forms.

Whether it’s a new type of brushstroke or an innovative problem-solving technique, creativity can apply to not only the arts but the fields of business, education and more.

Kitty Heusner founded the Florida Creativity Conference 15 years ago with this in mind.

“We’re really looking at the mindset and skill set of creative thinking and problem solving,” Heusner says. “It’s a chance, whether you come for one day or the whole time, to be connected to people in a very safe learning environment and to stretch and explore in a creative community.”

The conference is presented annually by the Florida Creativity Alliance Inc. in partnership with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and Florida Studio Theatre. It started in 2003 as a small, informal gathering of people looking to spark their imagination.

Today, the conference has evolved into a full weekend of workshops focusing on topics such as memoir poetry, improv, color healing and building a “powerhouse board of advisors,” according to its website.

After putting out a request for proposals, organizers created a lineup of workshops led by more than 50 professionals from a variety of fields, from book writing to meditation facilitation to consulting. The workshop leaders hail from Sarasota and the state as well as about 10 other states and three countries.

Heusner says most participants come because they’re either interested in developing their teaching skills, are interested in growing their business, are passionate about the arts or are striving for personal growth. For this reason, she tries to make the event as multidisciplinary as possible.

She also notes that organizers have included workshops for people interested in the theory of creativity and creative thinking, so it’s not only about expanding one's creativity but understanding what creativity really is.

Florida Creativity Conference Co-Chairwomen Hedria Lunken Saltzman Kitty Heusner show off the bike made by Sarasota creator William Pearson in honor of the 2018 conference theme: Grow Your Creativity. Courtesy image

“To be a part of a community of people who are all on a journey of exploring is one of the many benefits,” Heusner says of the conference experience. “People come curious and not sure they would define themselves as creative, but if you broaden that definition it doesn’t mean you’re a super recognized playwright or artist, it’s really about having an open, curious mindset.”

Heusner says an interesting aspect of the conference is about 10% of participants are students from high school to graduate studies programs who can attend with the help of a group of generous donors.

Asked about the relevance of the event in a large arts community such as Sarasota, Heusner says she can’t deny that artists and those in the art business can benefit significantly.

“It’s a chance to interact with others who see the arts as significant," Heusner says. “I think people who are in the arts enjoy the atmosphere and have a chance to be challenged by others who share their passion.”

Heusner, who worked in education much of her life and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and professional development, says the arts are often pushed aside as the “frilly” aspects of learning. She believes those who attend the conference and work in the arts are people who see the arts as a core medium for understanding the world, and attending is a way for them to connect with others who value the depth of thinking involved with the arts.

As for why creativity is important to Heusner she says it’s helped her become a better professional, mother and all-around person.

“It’s incredibly powerful for me — it's become a way of thinking that I’m not even aware of how much I use it,” she says. “How I look at things, how I listen, it’s all impacted … I want that to be available to people in our part of the world.”

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