Creative Ground’s core team, Lisa Fitzhugh, Deborah Salas and Ella Andrews, have been designing and facilitating projects together for the last several years. Their close collaborations have led to significant innovations on behalf of our clients.
LISA FITZHUGH, Founding Partner of Creative Ground, is a professional team builder and leadership coach. She combines the art of creative insight and her implicit trust in each person’s innate capacity for greater emotional intelligence to cultivate resilient relationships and cohesive teams. Lisa is often asked to support groups when there is a legacy of unaddressed conflict. She works from the assumption that conflict is fertile ground for transformational change–it is the essential dynamic tension that allows for more creativity and growth both in individuals and organizations.
Lisa is also the founder of Arts Corps, the largest arts education program in Washington State reaching underserved communities throughout King County. Before Arts Corps, Lisa worked both for elected officials and as a consultant designing and implementing public engagement strategies. She served as an aide to Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, Seattle City Councilmember Tom Weeks, and U.S. Congressman Ben Cardin, D-MD.
As a community activist, she has supported the visions of the New School Foundation, the Children’s Music Foundation, the Learning Committee for Seattle Center’s 50th Anniversary of the World’s Fair, LoveCityLove, an improvisational arts collective, and most recently, the Garfield High School PTSA. Lisa grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. She holds a political science degree from Duke University.
“As a leadership coach, Lisa has shown me how to wrestle with competing forces—even the ones I had labeled irreconcilable. With her guidance, I have found ways to energize inside of conflict, whether it be actual “on the ground” issues or the sparring of my own internal demons and better angels. I am finding ways to cast off the archetypes of traditional leadership in favor of expressing myself genuinely. And my team, my whole organization for that matter, is refreshingly responsive. Lisa is interwoven grace and tenacity; equal parts gunnery sergeant and zen master.”
–Rob Gannon, King County Transit General Manager
ELLA ANDREWS is a coach, trainer and facilitator who uses storytelling to help leaders grow, unite teams around a common vision and set a course for real and lasting change. Ella combines a practical approach with candor, compassion and depth. She arrived at storytelling as a lens for personal and collective change through 20 years of work in progressive politics; she saw that when her clients explored and shared their own stories, it increased their ability to set goals, see the barriers and create far more inspiring and ambitious outcomes for their organizations and our world.
Ella’s background ranges from community organizing to campaign management to consulting for thousands of activists, funders and elected leaders in Washington state and across the country. In addition to her work with leaders and organizations, Ella also teaches storytelling retreats and workshops for kids and adults. Through it all, she developed a suite of tools that use story to develop trust, teach emotional intelligence, improve communication skills and create transformation.
“I knew my blind spots needed to be identified, but I wasn’t sure how to do this by myself or with the support of HR. I knew the “work” would start with me and it would be personal, but I had no idea how effective it would be. With Ella’s support, I was able to identify and change the behaviors and beliefs did not serve me or the people I lead. My team and I are ‘bringing it’ since our work together. I would recommend her to anyone who dares to be bold. “
–Debra Peat, Senior Manager, Intellectual Ventures Laboratory
DEBORAH SALAS, MSW, a Strategic Partner with Creative Ground, focuses her energies on facilitating conversations to deeply explore emergent issues, reaching common understanding from divergent points of view and developing processes to improve communication flow. Her deep caring for humanity means that there are no villains; only people who need the tools to understand themselves and others.
Deborah believes learning is a lifelong pursuit. We learn both through our mistakes and by opening ourselves up to information and ideas we haven’t previously encountered. In this process, she becomes a partner in learning with her clients, building trust and making the journey through transformational change together.
As a management leader in organizations ranging from corporate high tech to arts and education non-profits for over 30 years, she has learned organizational management, community building and methods for engaging diverse communities and individuals. She has brought this expertise to instruction of both bachelor’s level and master’s level students at the University of Washington School of Social Work, and to her work with Creative Ground.
“At a time of significant destabilization at the leadership level in my organization, Deb provided me with safety and support while simultaneously challenging me not only to understand, adapt and grow within the areas of the workplace I could control, but to be a positive model and influence outside of them to the best of my ability. Deb is an extraordinary combination of intellect, intuition, experience, wisdom, caring, honesty, sensitivity and just plain fun. She is straightforward and real. Her authentic interest in me, my well-being and my agency to effect positive change for myself and others was always in evidence. Great gifts often come at the most difficult of times, and I will ever be grateful for the gift of Deb’s time and attention to me. I am the better for it.” – Holly Koelling, Director of Strategy, King County Library System
We also regularly collaborate with partner practitioners to learn from each other and weave our collective skills and expertise together for even better outcomes.
DENNIS A. COOK, a Seattle native, worked for Seattle Parks and Recreation Department for 37 years. During that time, Dennis became known for ‘finding common ground’ by building successful collaborations and partnerships that create positive, engaged communities. Working with non-profits, private and public elementary/secondary schools, universities, local/national youth and adult athletic organizations, and professional athletic teams, Dennis has facilitated joint ventures that improve access, opportunity and inclusion for all. Dennis works as a coach, mentor and creative problem-solver on behalf of equity for all in our community.
“My personal experiences with Dennis have been nothing short of exceptional. His leadership, integrity, and character have been impeccable in the years that I have worked with him. One of Dennis’s greatest assets is the the ability to have a positive attitude during demanding times while consistently offering great solutions as issues are presented. His concern with detail, the ability to grasp new ideas and concepts and to work easily with others has been of great benefit to the parks and recreation department, the school district, and the entire state from a youth sports/athletic standpoint.”
— Eric C. McCurdy, Seattle Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics
DEBRA R. BAKER, Live, Love, Lead, Liberate! Debra offers a successful history of serving and leading at various organizational levels. As a sage with a deep interest in human development and organizational health, Debra has become known for creative human-centered program development along with her zesty inclusive social learning and facilitation skills. Most recently, Debra’s work includes serving as an educator consultant where she enjoys growing the talents and mindsets of employees in government.
FRANCES MCCUE, As a Public Scholar, Engagement Strategist and Arts Instigator, Frances is passionate about engaging people in powerful inquiries and challenges. Using the practices she has developed at Columbia University, the University of Washington and in classrooms and meeting rooms across the country, she inspires individuals and organizations to engage with new creative projects and reengage with the work at hand. Her work leverages collaboration, enriches dialogue, flattens hierarchies, develops new models of work and articulates frames of reference and practice. Frances is the Founding Director of Richard Hugo House, a literary center on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Frances is also a poet and essayist who has published four books and is a winner of the Washington State Book Award. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer and Writer in Residence in the University Honors Program at the University of Washington.
“I had the pleasure of working with Frances after hiring her as an instructor for a professional development program for literary artists. Not only was she extremely generous with her professional knowledge, but she had a wide range of skills to cultivate an engaging and stimulating setting for maximum adult learning. Her information was solid and consistent, but she was also inventive and led an organic, but controlled classroom setting. I would highly recommend her for any organization lucky enough to have her and look forward to hiring her again in the future.”
— Nichole DeMent, Executive Director at Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)