Creative Leadership at Tanah Marah: A Reflection
This story was submitted by a member of the regional arts sector: Elisha Caulfield. We love sharing stories from the sector. If you want to find out how to submit your own stories, take a look at the Submit Your Story page. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Ever wondered what to expect at the Creative Leadership Program? Cowaramup-based consultant Elisha Caulfield gives us a run-down of her experience over the two days.
Entering the property of Tanah Marah is like coming into a forest wonderland. It’s the perfect setting to learn and relax. Shona Erskine is someone who can gently welcome you in but once she is front and centre there is no doubt that your brain is hers and she’s not here to waste time. Coming with a fierce combination of psychology and contemporary dance, Shona warms you up and then has you thinking in ways about your creative practice that are set to shape up your toolkit for the long-term future.
The early stages of the session had us engaging in the rainbow coloured pack of Being Creative cards. Instead of creating a hefty manual to be shelved and collect dust, she has created a usable deck of cards to grab and test at each stage of the process. Shona reminded us of the importance of having time to sit in hammocks and ponder our ideas (usually after lunch). She urged us to enter our subconscious to find the types of solutions to problems that are not always found with hard-core think-time. Each and every step is backed up by research and data that has you nodding your head and wishing you met her sooner.
Shona guided us through her personal process to prepare the room and how we should engage the senses to bring people to calm. She pointed to multiple real-life situations where simple and effective tools such as magnetic blackboards in hallways allowed staff to add and move ideas to a team concept. Shona also helped us understand how play and pondering can bring about brilliant solutions to the very things which need creative thinking.
Honestly if I could have cloned a second version of myself to sit and take notes while I simply enjoyed the flow of information, I would. As we brought day 1 into land, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that we had reached maximum capacity and we were ready for that hammock.
Image: Creative Leadership Program participants gather at Tanah Marah. Photo courtesy of Arts Margaret River.
When you’ve had a day full of information, it can leave you a little weary. Shona was well and truly ready to gently reassure us that day two was going to be a lot more doing than listening. We started the session in the outdoor seating surrounded by bird calls, wandering dogs and the magnificent water view. Remembering our key points from the previous day had us feeling a little more steady and sure of how much we had actually retained.
Shona guided us through the Group Creativity pack reminding us to help people find ways to connect to outdoor spaces and share their ideas in well-matched pairs. She demonstrated the World Café which took the group brainstorm through the car wash and left it with a new shine. We started to pull the knowledge in and apply it to our own creative problems. As a group, we were connected, inspired and ready to shift the thinking in our own spaces.
In case you’re thinking “this sounds awesome but there’s something else I want to learn”, I give you the scent of the famous ‘blue pack’. When we came up with a question which could not be solved by Group Creativity or Being Creative cards, the blue pack sounds to me like the next piece in the puzzle. It’s probably in my best interest to keep this quiet but the work of Shona Erskine and her pack of tools and research is so juicy it must be spread far and wide. This training is one of the answers to that endless Zoom call where ‘person x’ repeats time after time the same solution to the team that cameras are off and people are making their fifth cup of tea. It’s the thing that will bring smiles back to planning and preparing.
Sign me up and subscribe me, I’m jumping on the ‘fact train’ that is Creative Leadership.
Thanks to Regional Arts WA and the Regional Arts Network for bringing this training to the South West and to Augusta Margaret River Shire for giving me a spot at the table. To the team at Arts Margaret River for bringing this all together and being the type of creative leaders we aspire to be. Lastly, to Shona Erskine for the time and effort that she puts in to the details that make my pen move fast on the page all while I am comfortably full with a cup of tea in hand.
More information on the Creative Leadership Program can be found on the Regional Arts WA website.