John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Awards $1.13 Million Grant to the Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Visual Art

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Funding to Support Creative Community Network.

With nearly 80 Institute graduates, there is a tremendous opportunity to build vital alumni programs

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded a $1.13 million grant to the artist-inspired Innovation Institute at McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte. The three-year grant will support the continued growth of the Institute, including the development of a creative network of community leaders that will encourage more innovative approaches for Charlotte's continued progress.

"The Knight Foundation supports organizations that promote positive community transformations," said Susan Patterson, Knight Foundation program director for Charlotte. "While The Innovation Institute enhances the creative abilities of individuals, we also see an opportunity for The Institute to build a diverse network of innovative community leaders. These leaders will be prepared to champion innovation within their own organizations while also initiating creative solutions for the entire community."

McColl Center for Visual Art launched The Innovation Institute three years ago, offering senior executives an opportunity to enhance their creative abilities while learning new approaches for guiding the innovation potential of others. Professional visual artists and program facilitators guide Institute participants through a series of interactive explorations of the nature of creativity. The program is designed to illustrate how the creative process followed by artists can be applied as a model for businesses and not-for-profits.

Knight Foundation funding will enable The Innovation Institute to expand its offerings, including programs that will encourage graduates to network in search of creative solutions to a broad array of business and civic issues. Creative networks emerging among Institute graduates will provide a framework for influencing community issues and offering new strategies for addressing community needs.

The Institute's expansion plans under the grant will be led by Barbara Spradling, a seasoned corporate executive who has recently been named director of The Innovation Institute. Spradling, formerly a senior vice president with Bank of America, brings more than 20 years of experience in business and community service to the position.

"During the past two years, The Innovation Institute has proven the effectiveness of its model, and the Knight Foundation grant will provide the seed money that we need to expand on this success," Spradling said. "These funds will greatly accelerate our growth, broadening the ways in which our artists, facilitators and graduates can apply their creative energies for the good of their individual organizations and the entire region."

The grant will also support an increase in the number of Institute individual and group offerings, provide support for Institute scholarships to encourage diversity among graduates, facilitate networking with other leadership organizations in the community and fund follow up programs and professional coaching for graduates.

"With nearly 80 Institute graduates, there is a tremendous opportunity to build vital alumni programs," said Suzanne Fetscher, president of McColl Center for Visual Art and founder of The Innovation Institute. "These programs will continue to develop the skills of Innovation Institute graduates, reinforce their learning and reinvigorate the innovative approaches they are taking in their professional, personal and civic lives.

"The Innovation Institute has the potential to make a real impact on Charlotte through an engaged, creative, energized alumni base that is connected to other leadership groups throughout the region," Fetscher continued. "Our goal is to encourage Institute graduates to see themselves as a collective of creative leaders who can support each other and make a difference through collaborative effort."

The Innovation Institute currently offers a series of six alternating Friday sessions, a one-week intensive program and custom-designed programs for groups. On the web at

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, established in 1950 and headquartered in Miami, promotes excellence in journalism and invests in the vitality of Charlotte and the other 25 U.S. communities where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers. On the web at


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