Art Works Blog

Jason Schupbach, come on down!

April 15, 2010
Washington, DC

Jason Schupbach. Photo courtesy of Mr. Schupbach

Jason Schupbach. Photo courtesy of Mr. Schupbach

Photo courtesy of Jason Schupbach

This May Jason Schupbach will join the NEA as the Director of Design. Having held posts as the Creative Economy Industry Director at the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and the Capital Projects Manager at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, it's fair to say that Schupbach has a few thoughts on how art---and design---works.

NEA: In five words or less, who is Jason Schupbach?

JASON SCHUPBACH: Innovative, Dedicated, Gregarious, Creative, and Nerd-tastic.

NEA: What are you looking forward to most about moving to Washington, DC?

SCHUPBACH: I am incredibly excited to be working with the National Endowment for the Arts as they embark on important new smart design initiatives and continue to provide invaluable support for design projects through the NEA?s core grant programs.  From the Mayors? Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Grants to the new Our Town program, the new leadership of the Arts Endowment is embracing innovative creative placemaking policies. I?m honored to be part of the team that will implement these strategies to revitalize our communities and put Americans back to work.

NEA: What will you miss most about Boston?

SCHUPBACH: Massachusetts is a fantastic, creative place to live, and there are a million things I?ll miss. I?ll primarily miss the dedicated people who I?ve been working with to grow the innovation economy in the state.

NEA: What do you hope to learn while you're at the NEA?

SCHUPBACH: Clearly the employees at the NEA have an incredibly deep understanding of what is occurring across the nation in the creative economy.  I?m humbled by their knowledge and hope to absorb as much of it as I can and hopefully contribute my part.

NEA: What do you hope to accomplish while you're at the NEA?

SCHUPBACH: I?ve spent the last seven years of my career dedicated to some aspect of growing the creative economy and implementing creative placemaking strategies. New England actually began doing creative economy work almost 15 years ago, so there?s been a great deal of experimentation, and now we know what?s worked and what hasn?t. The opportunity to implement some of these strategies at the federal level, especially for the design industries, is both daunting and incredibly exciting.  There?s a lot to do---let?s get to work!

NEA: What are you most proud of accomplishing during your tenure as the nation's first state-level creative economy industry director?

SCHUPBACH: I?m most proud of the cluster and community building we did within the creative industries (design, advertising, and entertainment-based industries).  When I started there was very little relationship between the state and most of the industries, and a lack of executive networking within and between the industries.  I worked very hard to get people talking and taking action amongst themselves and with government on how to grow the different clusters.

For example, when I first started, a local design cluster effort was forming (which eventually we helped grow into the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts---DIGMA).  We had them sit down with the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and, in that meeting, a few designers spoke about a desire to see more sustainable and longer-lasting buildings be built by the state.  Those statements kicked off a two-year process of partnering with the industry and creating a design excellence program for the Commonwealth, which we?re just launching now.   DIGMA is also planning a major design thinking conference for this fall to connect design to other industries in the state.

NEA: A hallmark of your career has been a strong commitment to working in the public sphere. Why is public service important?

SCHUPBACH: I?ve always been attracted to public service because it gives one the opportunity to assist in making real change happen on the ground.  I?ve dedicated my life to making it possible for creative people to succeed, and I believe strongly that government has a role and responsibility in creating an environment for innovators to grow, learn, and produce.  When creative people succeed, they enrich and improve the society and communities they live in.

NEA: What does the phrase "Art Works" mean to you?

SCHUPBACH: It means a lot of things, but mostly it means the arts equals jobs and economic recovery. The creative economy has been proven to revitalize our communities and to grow employment and exports.  It?s actually seven percent of the Massachusetts workforce. Design thinking is even being taught in business schools as a good strategy for growing your business, so the impact of the arts is far and wide.

NEA: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?

SCHUPBACH: I?m a huge music geek and also a big fan of movies, TV, and graphic novels. Also, well, I?m a little embarrassed to admit this, but for some random reason last year I decided to become a food blogger.  I have a video blog about cheese where I talk about cheese with guests.  I mean, who doesn?t love cheese?  I?ll let people see if they can find it!

NEA: Any last words?

SCHUPBACH: Design has so much to offer to our localities and to the business community. I?m honored to serve the design community as it rethinks and reinvents our economy.

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