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Susan McCalmont’s educational background is in art history. In her business life, she has lobbied on Capitol Hill. Now, after 19 years as the executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, McCalmont is taking her unique skill set to Creative Oklahoma as its first president.
Formed in 2006, Creative Oklahoma Inc. is a statewide nonprofit organization that promotes creativity and innovation in commerce, culture and education.
While McCalmont went to school for art history, her business background is in nonprofit management and development.
She worked in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s as a lobbyist for the American Business Conference. From there, she ran the National Center for Historic Houses for the National Trust for Historic Preservation of Washington, D.C.
Prior to coming to Oklahoma, she also served as the economic development director for the city of Fredericksburg, Va.
McCalmont has been with Creative Oklahoma since the beginning, serving as one of the founding board members, along with Burns Hargis, OETA Executive Director John McCarroll and others.
“(At that time,) we were very aware of what was happening in education and in business to create environments that were more conducive to entrepreneurial activity,” McCalmont says. “We knew for Oklahoma, not just to survive, but to be a leader and thrive economically, we needed to be able to pull people together across all sectors to look at how we encourage creative thought, innovation and entrepreneurship in our schools and businesses.”
While the seeds were sown much earlier, Creative Oklahoma launched in 2008 as a statewide nonprofit. Soon after, Oklahoma was accepted as a District of Creativity, one of only 14 in the world, and the only location in North America.
In 2010, the Sooner State hosted the International Creativity World Forum, which drew more than 2,600 people from 38 states and 18 countries.
McCalmont says Creative Oklahoma also was instrumental in facilitating the partnership between the Academy of Contemporary Music of London and the University of Central Oklahoma in Bricktown.
Creative Oklahoma has begun offering day-long creativity conferences and professional development for teachers and universities.
Last year, the group awarded $25,000 in grants to encourage creativity in schools. This year, the group will hold its inaugural creativity forum in Norman.
“I think there is so much potential, it’s sort of limitless,” McCalmont says. “We are looking at very specific strategies right now to further encourage connections between the arts and sciences and humanities in the schools to help grow the ‘A+ schools’ network in the state. “I see a lot of growth and connectivity to put Oklahoma truly on the map as the state of creativity in the U.S.”Also in May, Don Betz was named chairman of the board for Creative Oklahoma. The president of Northeastern State University in Tulsa has served for two years on the organization’s board.
“Susan has been an integral part of Creative Oklahoma since its inception, and we are very excited to have her as president,” says Ken Fergeson, former board chairman. “She embodies the spirit of what the organization has set to accomplish, and she will make sure it happens.”