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Life & Work with Mark Collier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Collier.

Hi Mark, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
After fifteen years as a film-composer in LA, I discovered an important life-lesson – it’s not all about me! Climbing the ladder of “success” and pursuing of the “American Dream” can leave you more empty and unfulfilled than when you started. There was a longing for something greater, more meaningful and life-giving. That’s when love “flipped the script.” It turns out that the greatest joy in life comes through serving others, not yourself! Led by faith, creativity, and the belief that we’re better and more beautiful together, I launched Inverted Arts in the fall of 2010.

Inverted Arts has been flipping the world upside down ever since, asking young people the question, “What’s RIGHT with you?” The answer? They are “created 2 create;” made in the image of the ultimate Creator with incredible value, worth and creative potential! Our programs help these young artists discover and unleash their creative voices in everything from fashion to filmmaking, songwriting to storytelling, and drawing to design. When their ideas and imaginations are nurtured, it’s good for the whole community!

How does it work? We develop partnerships with organizations in underserved communities, offering Art Camps and Art Exploration Programs led by professional Artist Mentors. These programs end with Community Showcase events where students present their creative masterpieces to the world. We collaborate with partners and youth to create documentary films, recording projects and visual art exhibits. We offer internships and scholarships to students who want to grow deeper. When our scholarship students graduate, we offer five-year investment plans for their small business ventures that become a sustainable means of community development. Said in another way, partnerships cultivate the soil of relationship, programs and projects plant the seeds of creative potential, internships and scholarships help students grow deeper and wider, and small businesses partnerships help young entrepreneurs bear creative fruit. All this leads to community development, where everyone enjoys the fruit!

Since 2010, we’ve established ten partnerships in the Twin Cities, MN, with additional partnerships in Pasadena, CA, Kenya, Liberia, and the Dominican Republic. We’ve served over fifty-five hundred students at Art Camps and Art Exploration Programs. We’ve awarded twenty-one Scholarships and two hundred and twenty five internships. We’ve launched six Small Businesses with our Scholarship graduates; three in Kenya and three in Liberia. Two communities are being changed through the creativity of young entrepreneurs; Mathare Community Outreach in Kenya and the Mission of Hope for the Disabled in Liberia.

Yes, it’s true. Creativity is KEY to community development!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The road never seems smooth, and yet every obstacle is an opportunity! What we tell students is it’s not about raw talent, but about persistence and developing the talents and skills that you already have. The same is true of the work of a non-profit. Persistence and an unwavering belief in your mission is key. We are a small nonprofit and that means there are constant funding obstacles that result in a daily invitation for folks to invest in what we are doing. But, being small has advantages. We’d rather be the speedy life boat than the cumbersome Titanic! There are challenges of systemic and racial injustices as when George Floyd and Daunte Wright were killed at the hands of police. These traumatic events helped us shift course and find ways to offer programming that uses creativity as a catalyst for healing and hope in our communities. There are leadership challenges that rise when you serve mostly black and brown students, but your founder and most board members are white. Students need to see themselves represented in leadership, so we have to work harder to invite POC artists and leaders into our organization and be willing to step back and hand over the keys of ownership. There are cross-cultural challenges partnering with Kenya, Liberia and the Dominican Republic, but if we are willing to listen and learn, they have so much to teach us! So yes, there are struggles! But in many ways, navigating those challenges has been the most beautiful part!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I grew up in Vancouver, BC, finished a business degree, and moved to Los Angeles where I completed Film Composing and Composing and Arranging Degrees from The Grove School of Music. After that, I worked for 15 years as a freelance film composer and was fortunate to work with clients such as HBO, A&E Network, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, World Vision, and Family Entertainment Network. I also have 25 years experience as both Worship and Outreach Directors in churches in Pasadena, Montrose and Pismo Beach, CA, and Maple Grove, MN. In my 40’s I went back to school, earning an MA in Global Leadership from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA.

As an artist/creative, I am most proud of my work with Inverted Arts! Far more important than any individual accolades or success is helping others find their own creative “voices” and realize their value, importance and worth in this world. We need each other. We need to be inspired by their dreams, imaginations and ideas. We need to see, hear and experience their songs, stories, films and photographs. Each one of us has something to offer that makes the bigger picture of our world more beautiful and complete. Being part of that journey with students has been my greatest joy!

How do you define success?
Serving others as we grow in generosity, humility, love and sacrifice.

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