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Anna Cramer

The Value of the Bolz Center Applied Learning Trips

by Anna Cramer Monday, October 19, 2015

What a fall semester the Bolz Center students have had. Besides our classes, assistantships, and some badger football, we have participated in applied learning trips to Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. The Bolz Center’s commitment to applied learning was a huge draw to me as an applicant. It signals that the Center truly cares about the students’ learning outside the classroom, helping us think about what we are learning in the context of the type of organizations for whom we will ultimately work. It is a great opportunity for us to have interesting conversations with professionals who are in our field and currently experiencing the issues and opportunities that we are discussing in classes.

Our trip to Milwaukee in mid-September began at the Harley-Davidson Museum, where we first discussed the history of the brand and some of the obstacles the company has faced over the years. Following the intro, Bolz Center alumnus and Harley-Davidson Special Events staff member Jack Bradway, was joined by fellow alumnus, Kelly Gauthier, from the Milwaukee Public Museum to discuss some of the strategies implemented by these two museums that are in very different stages of the organizational life-cycle. We also discussed the audience structure of museums and the way these two highly visible Milwaukee institutions use similar and different tactics to attract and retain audiences.

Our next stop was at the Global Water Center where we listened to presentations from the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Creative Alliance Milwaukee about the creative placemaking efforts in Milwaukee and the delicate balance between placemaking that helps enrich a neighborhood or community versus the placemaking that turns that same community into a ‘destination’ not intended to serve its current community. Next, we stopped by Material Studios + Gallery, a collaborative artist working space, and was provided a tour of the artist spaces. This was a nice addition to our visit, because we were able to view and reflect on some of the artists’ work while they were there, discussing their process and inspirations.  

Our last stop in Milwaukee was Splash Studio, which was started by Bolz Center alumna Marla Poytinger and her husband, Grainger Center alumnus, David Poytinger. Marla and David talked about their path to opening their own business and Splash’s numerous competitive advantages in the fast growing paint and bar experiences available around the country.

Our second applied learning trip in early October was to the Twin Cities. Our first stop was in Saint Paul, for an all-star panel that included folks from: the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), Park Square Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, Public Art Saint Paul, and Artspace. The conversation centered on the arts participation in the revitalization of downtown Saint Paul and how the commitment of City officials makes a huge difference in how the arts can create a vibrant economy. After the panel which was held at Park Square Theatre, we had a chance to see the theatre’s new stage and talk about how programming has expanded with the additional stage. We also toured the new Concert Hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, with Bolz Center alumna Katie Berg from SPCO. 

Our visit to Project Success, with Bolz Center alumni Matt Dreier and Emily Heagle, focused on the organization’s recent growth and a discussion about the key relationships needed to maintain the organization’s success in Minneapolis with the public schools, theaters, and the communities. As a past participant of Project Success, it was exciting for me to see how the organization has grown and the amount of impact they have on the lives of the students in the Minneapolis Public school system.

Our final stops were with Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) in Saint Paul. Our conversation with Intermedia Arts focused on the Creative CityMaking Project, a partnership with the City of Minneapolis designed to advance the city’s ‘One Minneapolis’ goals through arts-based collaborations and initiatives. Using a ‘Collective Story Harvest’ format we listened to the history and current state of the project and asked key questions to recount what we heard. This was a really interesting format for discussion and could be useful in learning how your story or idea is perceived by others. At MPR we toured their amazing facility and learned about their live events and how they connect to the community outside of on-air programming. We also discussed MPR’s and American Public Media’s organizational structure and the on-air series they are currently producing about the creative economy in the Twin Cities.  

The true value in these trips is not only meeting top professionals in the arts and culture field, but taking us out of our day-to-day MBA life of spreadsheets, case studies, and exams to have the important conversations that we will need to have as we enter these organizations after graduation. In addition, visiting these organizations is a great reminder of why I love the arts and continues to build my excitement towards graduation when I can start contributing to these types of organizations again.