Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders (CLCL): Tools and Strategies for Forging Dynamic Spaces

Program Description

The Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders (CLCL) is a unique, highly interactive opportunity for Senior Arts Leaders and their teams to explore dynamic and innovative leadership and organizational structures. CLCL is a nine-month low-residency program that offers professional and relationship development for senior leadership teams of cultural heritage organizations. Thus, the program focuses on supporting organizations of culture keepers to deepen their capacity to be anchored in their respective communities and document, originate, circulate, innovate, service, through their own voice, all formations of visual and material art, cultural heritage, and history. The program aims to equip leaders to more effectively grow and sustain their organizations in a climate of increased competition for resources and complex challenges in serving their communities. CLCL offers a three-part series focused on building ongoing strategic skills and tools at the I) individual, II) organizational, and III) sectoral levels. The program will convene participants from six Midwestern cities- Cohort I Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit; Cohort II Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis, creating a geographically diverse cohort of leaders and organizations.

The Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders views these three levels (individual, organizational, and sectoral) as part of an interconnected ecosystem within the arts and culture sector. Meaning, the program seeks to support developmental growth and organizational sustenance both within and across all levels of your art institution as well as open up the opportunity to consider collaborations across complementary sectors. In addition to the important work of increasing individual and organizational tools for the participating leadership teams, CLCL is committed to the larger duty of creating a more robust racial, cultural, economically, and socially diverse, field of arts leaders and cultural organizations through which a more equitable environment for arts and cultural participation is activated. CLCL is lead by a strong team, including Program Lead Coach, President of Dickerson Global Advisors, Amina Dickerson.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is pleased to provide the Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders (CLCL) through the seminal and generous support of the Joyce Foundation.

Program Audience

CLCL seeks to support organizations that are culturally-specific, from communities that are historically under-funded and/or that are most impacted by social inequality or marginalism as well as those team that support the goal of inclusion and pluralism within the arts community.

Program Objectives

  • Support the development of skills and strategic tools for leadership and organizational capacity within the participating organizations.
  • Support the ongoing development and sustainability of the arts and cultural sector by making resources and leadership development opportunities more equitably distributed. 
  • Activate cohort and geographically diverse networks to facilitate long-term opportunities, impact, and relationships.

Program Design and Structure

The Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders (CLCL) design draws from elements of senior leadership programs; diversity and equity initiatives; nonprofit capacity building initiatives; and art and design practice pedagogy. CLCL’s program model includes a three convening cohort structure to activate leadership and organizational capacity building that engages leaders and their teams. The leadership development training will reflect the following schedule and themes:

Convening I: Individual Leadership Practice (Senior/Organizational Leader)

(Virtual) Fall 2020: Tuesdays, 9:30-11:00AM, September 8- November 24, 2020

  • Participant self-assessment and individual leadership development/coaching planning
  • Contemporary policy and sector overview
  • Lecture/workshop sessions: Leadership Frameworks; Leadership and Wellness; Developing Strategy; Philanthropy and Power; Change Management; Succession Planning; and more
  • Preparatory work for Convening II: Organizational self-assessment and team project development

Convening II: Organizational Capacity Building (Senior Leader and Organizational Team*)

(Virtual) Winter 2021: Tentatively January-February, 2021

  • Participant organization teamwork on project/challenge identified in Convening I 
  • Workshop and discussion sessions incorporating/applying art and design methodologies to organizational development challenges
  • Planning for post-convening work and consultation

Convening III: Senior Leadership and the External Environment (Senior/Organizational Leader)

(In-Person) Spring 2021: Tentatively April-May, 2021

  • Lecture/workshop sessions: Advocacy; Systems Change; Cross-Sectoral Collaboration and Collective Impact Models; Sustaining and Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 
  • Individual and Team goals assessment and planning for next steps
  • Planning for ongoing cohort work and network building  

* Participant leaders and organizations will be of different sizes. This program makes it possible for a senior leader to work with a team from their organization of one to two additional participants for Convening II.

The first and third convenings focus on individual senior leaders while the second convening invites a small team from the participant’s organization to work on a project critical to organizational capacity building. Participants will also have opportunities to develop relationships and networks with peers and faculty. 

Benefits to Participants

  • Acquisition of an array of tools to utilize for planning, team building, strategic partnerships, program development, and evaluation 
  • Formal assessments of personal and organizational strengths, assets, and skills
  • Engagement with skilled faculty and arts professionals
  • Enhanced local and regional peer network 
  • Certificate of Training, and accompanying transcripts, based on full participation and completion of assignments

Expectations of Participants

  • A learning mindset
  • Commitment to attend and participate in all sessions
  • Preparation and follow-up for pre-session and related assignments 
  • Contribute in efforts to co-create curriculum elements to ensure relevance and viability for participants

How This Senior Leadership Program Differs From Others

  • Focus limited to key cities in the Midwest only
  • Focus on leaders and teams
  • Priority focus on small, midsize, and emerging culturally-specific organizations from communities that are historically under-funded and that are most impacted by social inequality and marginalism 
  • Intention of co-design for elements of the program

For questions or more information about the Creative Lab for Cultural Leaders (CLCL), please contact Taykhoom Biviji, Program Coordinator, at, or 773-349-2332.

Subscribe to our mailing list by completing our Interest Form.

Strategic Solutions for Cultural Leadership

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has received a multi-year planning and implementation grant from the Joyce Foundation to support the Strategic Solutions for Cultural Leadership (SSCL) program. This initiative will provide professional development opportunities for historically underrepresented arts professionals in two categories:

  1. Senior/organizational: senior leaders and their staff currently working in small, neighborhood-based and/or culturally specific arts and culture institutions.
  2. Emerging: early-stage workers seeking entry-level professional development opportunities in the cultural sector. 


  • Strengthen the cultural sector by building the capacity of small, neighborhood-based and/or culturally specific arts organizations through leadership and organizational development.
  • Actively support the development of a more equitable and diverse cultural ecosystem by creating a talent development pathway to diversify leadership within formal and informal arts institutions.