Beauty Helps

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.”


Installation of the exhibition Sama Alshaibi: Silsila at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, June 4-September 18, 2016. Photo: Peter Bugg from

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.


Sara Cochran: “Beauty helps”

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.]


About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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