My leadership class visited the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art last week and met with its director and chief curator, Sara Cochran. The focus of our discussion was on how leaders employ images and symbols to lead. One of the questions we asked Sara was, “How does the museum, at the organizational level, use symbols and images to affect change in the local community?” She began her response with “Beauty helps.”
When this discussion ensued we were standing in an exhibit by an American Muslim woman artist of Iraqi and Palestinian descent in one of the most homogenous and politically conservative communities in Arizona. Beauty brings people into conversation. It invites people to look at the map of Ibn Batūtah’s journey throughout Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and leads them into a dialogue about exploration, women’s bodies, Muslim identity, borders, and more.
With so much ugliness in the world, it seems especially important this year to lead with beauty.
[For more on “beauty” and creative venturing, watch Diane Ragsdale’s talk at the 2015 pave Biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts here.]