A Random Act of Genius
Exploring the creative place between the fine lines of intellectual and emotional experience, our recent “Between the Lines” program at TEDxMIA surprised, delighted, and challenged participants on a whole bunch of levels.
A favorite blow-them-away moment came when an unexpected performance of “Les Toreadors” from Carmen cleverly interrupted philanthropist Dennis Scholl’s talk on experiencing culture anywhere and everywhere. Scholl, who is the Vice President of Art for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was delivering his talk on Random Acts of Culture when members of the Florida Grand Opera, who were planted in the audience dressed as everyday people, stood up and began singing. Believe me when I tell you it doesn’t get better than having the audience experience exactly what you are speaking of in real time. This soaring ride between the lines received a standing ovation.
Dennis launched the Random Acts of Culture Program, which engages professional artists to provide surprise performances in the most unusual places, aiming to bring culture, music, and the arts to the streets. There have been random acts of culture across eight cities at farmers’ markets, during department store shoe sales, and even at lunch hour at fast food restaurants. What makes each of these moments pure genius, of course, is that no one knows it’s coming. Imagine 600 choral members from the Opera Company of Philadelphia converging at once on Macy’s center atrium and beginning to sing the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
The stunning random acts of culture Dennis described at our annual TEDxMIA event got me wondering what would happen if as individuals, we committed to delivering random acts of culture in our own lives. Then I read an article you may have seen in the New York Times about Carla Harris, a Morgan Stanley executive and gospel singer who has performed at Carnegie Hall. Like the opera singers who performed at our event, Carla often breaks into song during meetings and conferences, offering a random act of culture that surprises the heck out of her colleagues every time, I’m sure. This joyous, spontaneous, seamless expression of the whole of who she is—executive and singer—is pure practical genius.
What cultural, artistic, or creative talents do you have that might be shared within the organization you work for? A fearless and authentic random act of genius your colleagues weren’t expecting from you may be just the inspiration they didn’t know they needed!