Former California Arts Council chair announced as Creative Edge Lecture speaker

Arts education thought-leader Donn K. Harris, former chair of the California Arts Council, will be the featured speaker at this month’s 12th annual Creative Edge Lecture.

His presentation, “Culture Clash: Creativity, Curriculum and Chaos in the Millennial Classroom,” will take place at the Irvine Barclay Theatre beginning at 10 a.m. on March 29. Admission is free with a reservation, which can be made on the Barclay website

Donn K. Harris
Donn K. Harris, former chair of the California Arts Council

Hosted by Arts Orange County in association with OCDE and Fourth District PTA, the Creative Edge Lecture series was established in 2010 to give artists, educators, business leaders and community members an opportunity to hear from distinguished innovators whose work is served by creativity.

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo was the most recent Creative Edge lecturer, drawing a packed house just before the pandemic in March 2020. Other notable presenters have included violinist Vijay Gupta, neuroscientist Dr. Charles Limb, educational advisor Sir Ken Robinson and authors Sarah Lewis and Daniel Pink.

Joining that list is Harris, who has been a teacher, a principal and vice president of the national Arts School Network in addition to his two terms on the California Arts Council, which concluded in 2021.

Insight into arts education

According to his bio on the Arts Orange County website, he “explores the contradictions, confluences and challenges of a creative agenda in today’s schools, with some surprising observations and insights about arts education and its place in the current economic and educational climate.”

“I have known (Harris) for nearly a decade, during which time I have witnessed his visionary leadership at the California Arts Council,” Arts Orange County President and CEO Richard Stein said. “He has a probing mind and a relentless desire to improve the conditions in which arts learning and teaching takes place, and to advance creativity and its many benefits throughout our state. I know that those who hear him will be delighted to discover his joyful and dynamic optimism that reinforces our belief in the power of the arts to impact the lives of our communities.”

Quantifying creativity

Characterized as an innovator who is committed to diversity at all levels of the arts ecosystem, Harris has crafted statistical models for measuring diversity in schools. He has also begun work on a “Creativity Index” to measure the levels of creativity brought to students’ daily experiences. Combined with academic and social-emotional ratings, Harris says this measure would offer “a more complete picture of a school’s true achievement.”

Proof of full vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance date, is required for audience members older than 12 years old to enter the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The latest COVID-19 guidelines can be found on the venue’s website.

This year’s Creative Edge Lecture sponsors are Phil and Mary Lyons, the Orange County Department of Education, Haskell & White LLP, Judith F. Posnikoff, University of California, Irvine-Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Susan K. Hori, Ellen Breitman and Brien Amspoker. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Karen Ahola at