COCA Executive Director Kelly Pollock To Address NEA Annual Meeting

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture
COCA executive director Kelly Pollock. Photo courtesy of COCA.

COCA executive director Kelly Pollock. Photo courtesy of COCA.

St. Louis’ Center of Creative Arts has been taking the concept of a community arts center to the next level in St. Louis since 1986, and the rest of America is taking note: COCA Executive Director Kelly Pollock will be heading to Washington, D.C. to address the annual meeting of the National Endowment for the Arts this Friday, Oct. 31.

“It’s quite an honor and really a testament to the work here at COCA,” Pollock says. “It’s just an honor that, out of the country, they selected one organization, and it was COCA. It should be a great honor to the St. Louis community because so many people have moved COCA forward. I’m really excited to tell COCA’s story on the national stage in the arts.”

COCA is being recognized at a national level for its innovative approach to what a community arts organization could be: Far from weekend pottery classes, COCA offers extensive arts classes as well as pioneering initiatives. COCAbiz joins business and technology with arts-based thinking to promote inter- and multidisciplinary solutions to challenges.

“A lot of people think of a community arts center in a very traditional way—a small definition of community,” Pollock says. “I think what we’re trying to represent is that arts learning really matters in modern communities, and this, perhaps, is a version of what a community arts center can be and should be and to really think bigger about the role of the arts in the world. I think that COCA’s tried to be very ambitious with its goals, and so I’m hoping we can share and encourage the NEA and other people in the arts field to think bigger about our work and our value in the community.”

Part of why arts learning matters is an increasing recognition that business and technology sectors can enhance their success with arts-based thinking. COCA’s worked with area schools to transform S.T.E.M. curricula to S.T.E.A.M. ones (the new vowel representing arts) and formed a partnership with Boeing to facilitate this cross-sector collaboration beyond education. To this end as well, the center’s COCAbiz program joins these communities together in an symbiotic, self-betterment effort.

“We’ve kind of branched out our model of arts learning and tried to reach new audiences—perhaps an unlikely one, but there’s a real need to combine arts and business within a cross-sector collaboration to fuel creativity in our region,” Pollock says.

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