Artistic Director Craig Harris and Interference Arts engage with communities using the arts as a central feature and resource to address community challenges and to assist in realizing community goals and vision. Work in this arena is rooted in the beliefs that arts-focused community development creates healthy and sustainable community ecologies, and that communities need to engage with the arts, artists, and creative literacy to effectively address 21st Century local and global challenges.

This work has included managing and consulting on creative facilities development, strategic and operational planning, program and organizational development, conference and festival direction, feasibility studies, and leadership cultivation initiatives for local, national and international projects, including work with organizations like Leonardo/ISAST; the International Computer Music Association; the Playwrights’ Center; Ballet of the Dolls & the Ritz Theatre Foundation; Caponi Art Park; Artspace Projects; University of Michigan Center for Performing Arts and Technology; School of Music at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Center for Art, Media, and Technology in Utrecht, Holland; The Banff Center for the Arts; Red Eye Collaboration Theater; Arts Center of Saint Peter.

The following provides a brief survey of some of the activities relating to nonprofit arts leadership and arts-based community development.

Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (ISAST)

Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST) is a nonprofit organization that serves the global network of distinguished scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and thinkers through our programs, which focus on interdisciplinary work, creative output and innovation. From its beginnings, Leonardo has served as THE virtual community for networking, resource-sharing, disseminating best practices, supporting research and offering events in art/science/technology.

In the early 1990s I had the opportunity to work with Roger Malina, the American physicist, astronomer, Executive Editor of Leonardo Publications by Leonardo, and Chairman of the Board of the Leonardo/The International Society of Arts, Sciences and Technology. In addition to his many accomplishments as a space scientist and astronomer, Roger was energetically exploring the realm where the arts, sciences and technology converge. I joined the organization as Executive director in 1991, and together we facilitated enhanced international networking and collaborations in the emerging media arts field. We collaborated to produce annual festivals and conferences, like the International Symposium on Electronic Art; we preserved the twenty-five year old arts, science and technology field journal Leonardo by establishing a long term comprehensive publishing collaboration with MIT Press; we launched significant new Leonardo Book Series; and we founded one of the Internet’s first web-based field journal, Leonardo Electronic Almanac.

Some of the key initiatives include:

  • Negotiating a comprehensive publishing agreement with MIT Press to print the journal Leonardo, to create a new Leonardo Book Series, and to launch a Leonardo web-based journal;
  • Launching the Leonardo Book Series;
  • Creating the web-based journal Leonardo Electronic Almanac;
  • Assisting the organization in developing a variety of national and international collaborations;
  • Facilitating the development of the International Symposium on Electronic Arts;
  • Developing the organization’s administrative infrastructure; and
  • Implementing a fund development program to increase contributed income.

Read about the history and evolution of Leonardo Electronic Almanac here.

The International Computer Music Association (ICMA)

The International Computer Music Association is an international affiliation of individuals and institutions involved in the technical, creative, and performance aspects of computer music. It serves composers, computer software and hardware developers, researchers, and musicians who are interested in the integration of music and technology.

Craig Harris became involved with the ICMA in the early 1980s, first by attending conferences (1981), assisting in the organization of the annual International Computer Music Conferences (1983), becoming involved in the organization as a Publications Coordinator (1984), and then as the organization’s President (1986).

During the course of his involvement he worked with fellow Board members and community leaders to facilitate enhanced international networking and collaborations in the emerging digital music field; to collaborate to produce annual festivals and conferences; and to develop academic and creative publishing activities and resources for electronic communications across diverse disciplinary fields.

Some of the key initiatives include:

  • Developing and improving the quality and regularity of the ICMA newsletter ARRAY;
  • Ensuring that the proceedings of the annual conferences were published and available at each year’s conference, rather than after the conference, facilitating communication and exchange of knowledge and research;
  • Strengthening the organization’s administrative infrastructure and financial practices;
  • Building the Board of Directors;
  • Formalizing procedures for annual conference selection and processes;
  • Conduct research on international activities, create a database of resources, and publish the Computer Music Association Source Book, a book that became an important resource in the community.

The Playwrights’ Center

The Playwrights’ Center sustains, develops, and advocates for playwrights and their work to realize their full artistic potential. Founded in 1971 by five writers seeking artistic and professional support, the Playwrights’ Center today serves more playwrights in more ways than any other organization in the country. One of the nation’s most generous and well-respected theater organizations, the Playwrights’ Center focuses on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to production at theaters across the country. 

Craig Harris joined the Playwrights’ Center in 2007 as Managing Director at a time of tremendous growth, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director P Carl. The organization was expanding its programs and extending its national reach, becoming one of the nation’s premiere play development centers. During his tenure at the Playwrights’ Center he worked to increase organizational capacity and resources to deliver its programs to serve national and international constituencies as a premiere play development center. He also became Interim Director and facilitated a leadership transition.

Ballet of the Dolls & the Ritz Theater Foundation

Ritz Lit Sign and Lanterns

In 1998 Artistic Director Craig Harris became involved in an arts-based community development initiative in Northeast Minneapolis, focused on the redevelopment of the Ritz Theater as a multi-use performance venue, and on the transformation of Sheridan neighborhood’s 13th Avenue district into a creative and valued destination.

The Minneapolis-based dance theater company – Ballet of the Dolls – wanted to establish a permanent home for the company to rehearse and perform, and identified the Ritz Theater in the Sheridan Neighborhood of Minneapolis as a viable setting. The Ritz Theater was a 900-seat movie theater that had been closed since 1982, and was in a state of deterioration, adding to neighborhood blight and crime, and inhibiting community development. Northeast Minneapolis was in a state of transition, with great potential and experiencing some challenges inhibiting its emergence.

Craig Harris led the initiative to redevelop the theater, and was deeply involved in this artistic and community development initiative. He built the company’s infrastructure and capacity, created strong relationships within the neighborhood and with government officials, helped to raise $2.2 million, managed the renovation of the theater, and launched the theater’s first season with a variety of dance, theater and music activity. The renovated Ritz Theater opened in 2006, with a beautiful and well-equipped 240-seat theater, a large studio and event space, a lobby with concession area, and office space. Today the 13th Avenue NE strip is completely transformed with the arts as a central feature in the district, thriving with successful restaurants and shops, and ongoing performance activity at the theater attracting thousands of people to the neighborhood each year.

Visit here for more information about this project.

Caponi Art Park

Caponi Art Park was conceived as an outdoor laboratory to teach and demonstrate how creativity is an essential part of daily living. From 1949 to 2013, Anthony Caponi, park founder, sculptor and Macalester College art professor, devoted himself to organically integrating art, life and nature into a 60-acre sculpture and a center for all the arts. Opened to the public in 1987, Caponi Art Park serves over 18,000 visitors annually, providing high quality opportunities for engagement in a variety of arts experiences for a rapidly growing and diverse community. The Park is a leading cultural center in the south metro area, and a model for other communities who have been inspired by Caponi Art Park’s successful community collaborations and creative placemaking.

Craig Harris served as Caponi Art Park’s President of the Board of Directors from 2010 – 2013, and during his tenure he led an initiative to preserve the 60-acre art park through a collaborative partnership between Caponi Art Park, the City of Eagan, and Dakota County. He also helped to increase capacity of the nonprofit programming entity, to establish a sustainable model for program delivery and development, and to navigate through a founder/leadership transition.

The 2012 Alaska Society for Technology in Education Conference

ASTE-The Future-sm

Artistic Director Craig Harris was invited to be the first artist-in-residence at the Alaska Society for Technology in Education Conference, with the goal of facilitating a community exploration of the future of education, education technology, and the role of the arts in educating students to function effectively in the 21st Century.

They brought their community together to create ASTE’s most comprehensive conference in its history, with the theme Create – Collaborate – Innovate, and they invited Craig Harris to be their first artist in residence at their conferences, to infuse the conference with an innovative and creative approach to developing a community-wide understanding of the current conditions, and to establishing a unified vision for the future.

Visit here for more information about this project.