Champion of the Arts: Leading Cultural Strategist Durrell Cooper Forges New Pathways to ‘Flow’ in the Arts

Photo Credit_Michael Perez

It’s exciting to witness the emergence of younger Champions of the Arts, who are carving their own pathways and forging new ways to contribute to the dialogue about diversity, equity, inclusion and access to the arts. I am honored to introduce the readers of Arts & Culture Connections to Durrell Cooper.

Mr. Cooper is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cultural Innovation Group, LLC, and one of the nation’s most prominent cultural strategists. He specializes in systems change and collaborative thought leadership. Prior to the establishment of CIG, Mr. Cooper was a Program Officer at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA). He also worked at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., in the Marketing Department conducting outreach to veteran service organizations and for Lincoln Center Education, recruiting and training teaching artists as well as several community engagement initiatives aimed at increasing equity and inclusion in NYC public schools.

In addition to being a U.S. Navy veteran, Mr. Cooper is a 2018 Graduate of Stanford’s Impact Program for Arts Leaders (IPAL), as well as a 2017 graduate of the National Guild’s Community Arts Education Leadership Institute (CAELI). Currently, he is pursuing his Doctorate degree at New York University.

Mr. Cooper refers to himself as a member of the “7th Generation;” a term he coined to reflect the historical significance of being born seven generations removed from slavery. He recognizes this as a time of return to the community to foster collective advancement. With that sense of responsibility in mind, Mr. Cooper is the creator and executive producer of the ground-breaking, video web series “Flow.” The program takes a critical look at power dynamics from the perspectives of people of color across multiple industries. In the groundbreaking web series, Mr. Cooper explores the struggles and triumphs of black and brown bodies within the arts, culture, philanthropic, science, finance, and fashion industries.

“Flow” premiered during a recent screening at NYU and featured an interview with me about my Community Engagement work for the arts. Following the screening, there was a dialogue with the audience. Many people were seeking direction about and resources for creating a successful business. Mr. Cooper spoke passionately about living his dreams and spending his own money to make it happen. He encouraged the audience to be proactive, He urged them to take charge of their life’s narratives and the use initiative to advance, recognizing there will be setbacks—a process he referred to as “fail forward.”

After having the wonderful experience of working with Mr. Cooper on his inaugural episode of “Flow,” I believe in Durrell and his vision for the future. I know this “7th Generation” will be a life-long Champion of the Arts.

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