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The Art of It: Conversations on Creativity and Leadership from the Roanoke Arts Commission

The Art of It: Conversations on Creativity and Leadership from the Roanoke Arts Commission

By Roanoke Arts Commission
A podcast of the Roanoke Arts Commission. Subscribe for short, thoughtful conversations with arts and cultural leaders at work effecting change in the world around us.
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1. Building a Better Community with Parks and Recreation's Michael Clark

The Art of It: Conversations on Creativity and Leadership from the Roanoke Arts Commission

12. Growth through Collaboration » The Women of Alma Ensemble
Alma Ensemble formed as an avenue for three musicians to make music together.  The collaboration has grown to commission music for their own performance, but also for an upcoming world premier to be performed by Roanoke City Public Schools students.  Sarah Wardle Jones, Erica Sipes, and Michelle Smith Johnson "borrow confidence from each other," as Sarah says. "Across the three of us we make it happen." Alma Ensemble is a musician collective dedicated to championing women in music, education, and creating connection through music. Listen to the full episode wherever you stream your podcasts or at 
December 19, 2021
11. SWVA Realness » Garland Gravely and the House of Expression
Garland Gravely founded House of Expression in 2019.  On October 23rd, they'll host SWVA's first mini-ball. Listen to the second part of our conversation with Gravely to learn about the creative expression, supportive culture, and just what's behind "realness" in Roanoke's emerging ballroom culture. "In the House of Expression, it's family first," says Gravely.  We want to do what's best for the family and the community." The Big Lick Mini Ball will take place from 2 PM to 9 PM on October 23.  Limited tickets are available at    
October 16, 2021
10. Fashionable Good » Behind the scenes with Fashionista Roanoke's Garland Gravely
"It's important as a community that we know how to come together and work together," says Garland Gravely, a founder of Fashionista Roanoke.  The Roanoke native says it's all about multiculturalism as the organization develops creative collaborations to benefit nonprofit partners.  Established in 2008, Fashionista Roanoke is expanding into other communities, but with deep roots in Roanoke, the team continues to build new partnerships.  Learn more by listening to the episode here.
June 26, 2021
9. In the Studio with Heather Marshall » Developing Practices of Mind
As a realist, artist Heather Marshall observes the world around her through her painting. She also teaches studio practice to high school students. In doing so, she shares the Eight Studio Practices of Mind, concepts elucidated in Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education by Hetland et al. "You'll often hear art in schools supported by saying the work is related to other subjects," says Marshall. "But for students and learners, the art making in itself has benefits," says Marshall. Marshal works with students, on observation, persistence, reflection, and other skills that they can carry through life beyond the studio. Heather Marshall received a MFA University of Notre Dame and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. See images of Heather's work Learn more about the Eight Studio Practices of Mind from Studio Thinking 2.
June 06, 2021
8. Fostering the Future » The Roanoke Cultural Endowment's Katherine Fralin on imagining what's possible
"Roanoke's culture per capita is off the charts," says Katherine Fralin, board secretary of the Roanoke Cultural Endowment. As the founding director of the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins University, Katherine is thoughtful on what drives change, and the role of individual investment in achieving it.   In this conversation, explore what makes Roanoke's arts community special, and how we can keep it that way. "We you don't get to stand still," says Katherine.  "We have to keep investing or our vibrancy will leak out slowly."  Learn more about the Roanoke Cultural Endowment Learn more about the Roanoke Arts Commission
March 24, 2021
7. Now's the Time » Virginia Tech's Amanda Nelson on community leadership through the arts
Amanda Nelson leads Virginia Tech's certificate and MFA programs in Arts Leadership and teaches in the theatre department. Much of her work directly and thoughtfully engages students in the world around them. This lively conversation centers on next-level community engagement through the arts, learning from history, and taking collective steps together.  "To me, leadership is a confluence of characteristics and practices rooted in communication, collaboration, innovation, and inspiration," says Nelson. "A lot of people are doing leadership without knowing that they're doing leadership. Maybe that's the magic of the creative arts..."   Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.  Learn more about the Roanoke Arts Commission at
November 24, 2020
6. The Power of Passion Ignited » Virginia Commission for the Arts' Janet Starke
The arts capture the human experience, spark leadership, and produce measurable outcomes, and there's still a lot of power to be harnessed. The Virginia Commission for the Arts has a draft strategic plan on the streets, and in this episode, we hear from VCA Executive Director Janet Starke on what the plan could mean for equity, investment, and transformative community change. Starke reflects on the pandemic, the past year's advocacy gains, and economy-building power of the arts. "The arts," she says, "stand ready to be a partner in rebuilding." Listen wherever you get your podcasts or at
November 14, 2020
5. Keep learning together » Southwest Virginia Ballet brings The Nutcracker to Blue Ridge PBS
Southwest Virginia Ballet Artistic Director Pedro Szalay and Executive Director Carol Jessee take us behind the scenes with the development of a Nutcracker for the pandemic, a version filmed for showing on and streaming through Blue Ridge PBS. "We've had the support of many organizations and businesses," says Jessee.  Still it feels like starting from scratch. "If we keep learning together," says Szalay, "we can accomplish a lot." It's the hallmark of a resilient community. Hear the full episode wherever you get your podcasts.
November 10, 2020
4. Roanoke Arts Commission's Jeanne Fishwick » City arts funding and the leadership of local organizations
Join Jeanne Fishwick for a behind-the-scenes look at the City of Roanoke's robust funding process for arts and cultural organizations. "We have some phenomenal leadership and talent in our arts organizations in Roanoke," says Fishwick. Fishwick has served on the Roanoke Arts Commission for nine years, with three on the Agency Funding Advisory Committee. As she enters her final year on the Commission she reflects on the City's support for our cultural ecosystem, innovative programs the Commission has funded, and the leadership of local organizations. 
September 10, 2020
3. Mill Mountain Theatre's Polkdots Team » Theatre for reflection, conversation and inspiration
Mill Mountain Theatre is going digital for their summer community outreach performances. Instead of parks, neighborhood centers, and community spaces, the program will be available from Broadway on Demand from September 15 through October 9.  In this episode we talk with Director and Choreographer Christopher Castanho, and cast members of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical -- Alexia Buckner (Lily), Achilles Mulkey (Sky) and Madeline Walker (Ms. Square). What's it like for the young professionals undertaking the creative work amidst COVID-19? What do they look to for inspiration? Find out in this episode of the podcast. Polkadots is based on the story of the Little Rock Nine and fictionalizes important lessons from our past as the nation struggled to break through policies of segregation. The performance film will be available for viewing from September 15 through October 9. While the musical was written for elementary-age students, it will appeal to the whole family. Register to view Polkadots here. Learn more about the Roanoke Arts Commission.
August 19, 2020
2. Art as curiosity prompt with the Science Museum of Western Virginia's Rachel Hopkins
The Science Museum of Western Virginia makes an art of engaging us in the world around us. Executive Director Rachel Hopkins describes the process of using artists to help interpret concepts. "Science is everything," says Hopkins, "as is art."  Hopkins brings a background in creative placemaking, nonprofit management, scientific editing, and curiosity to her work building a first-rate team addressing the challenges ahead while staying on mission. Hear the interview wherever you get your podcasts. Get more information on the Roanoke Arts Commission.
August 14, 2020
1. Building a Better Community with Parks and Recreation's Michael Clark
Roanoke has a great track record of integrating the arts in City parks. It’s symbiotic relationship. From the Elmwood Park Artwalk and amphitheater to placemaking activities along the Roanoke River Greenway and cultural programming in neighborhood parks, Roanoke’s parks are a key component in our arts and cultural offerings. In this conversation celebrating National Parks and Recreation month, we talk with Director Michael Clark, hitting on the Arches project, tips on hiring great staff, and the significant aspirations of the City’s Parks and Recreation Plan. “We want to be the reason people choose Roanoke,” says Clark. Listen to the conversation and then explore Roanoke’s Parks and Recreation offerings at
July 24, 2020
0 - The Art of It: What's ahead
The Art of It: Conversations on Creativity and Leadership is a podcast of the Roanoke Arts Commission. Listen in on short, thoughtful conversations with arts and cultural leaders effecting change in the world around us. Get more information on the Roanoke Arts Commission at
July 05, 2020