Lisa Fitzhugh launched Creative Ground in 2010, partnering with Sarah MacLean Bicknell and Lauren Atkinson to lead several all-women, transformational retreats in Moloka’i Hawai’i. Our work then found its way into local government with its first team-building retreat for Dennis Cook, Creative Ground Collaborator, when he was still managing Athletics for Seattle Parks & Recreation. Deborah Salas joined as a collaborator in 2014, adding a significant boost to our project capacity. Over the last several years, we have worked extensively inside of King County government and, more recently, have enjoyed bringing on several new projects in the non-profit sector.
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.
“Working with Lisa allowed both our team and me to confront old paradigms of how we operate. It also allowed us to reach closer to our highest potential for work and leadership. The outcomes were stunning for all of us. We accessed a much greater understanding of the shifting landscapes we work within. I could not be more pleased with Lisa’s support to bring us to these new levels of awareness and reflection. The end result has been a new ability for me individually as well as for our team to meet the pressures of the seismic shifts within our working landscape.”
–Ed Zuckerman, Senior Vice President, League of Conservation Voters
For 14 years, I’ve seen Lisa in numerous professional situations—motivational speaking, workshop presenting, community visioning, and leading. Lisa is a deep listener and sows seeds for change that resonate long after she has left the room. Witnessing participants reconnect with their own creative rocket fuel is something to behold! Beyond her leadership prowess, value-driven work and persistence, Lisa is a beautiful writer and speaker whose gifts of reason and critical reflection are unwavering. Her authentic spirit leads us to new places where we can tap into our full potentials and see the vision for a world healed and enlivened by collaboration and creativity. Lisa IS the rocket fuel that everyone needs.
–Sarah Davis, Board Member, Going Elemental
Creative Ground’s positive impact grows from constant collaboration with many learning partners. Since our inception, we have created intentional learning environments for many talented practitioners to come together, share current research, design innovative culture change strategies, and do great work on behalf of our clients.
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
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)
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
SHARLET DRIGGS is a project manager, artist, and small business owner living in rural King County. She has 30 years of project management experience and has partnered with Creative Ground on multiple projects over the last ten years. She collaborates with a variety of non-profit, art, and business groups to promote business models, non-profit structures and collaborative teams that are viable for both urban and rural settings. Sharlet believes that the intersection between creativity and business is where the best work can happen. Creating settings where conversation opens up and leads to genuine communication is key to the success of any organization. As an admirer of the wabi-sabi view, Sharlet sees imperfection as the natural and important component of human nature as well as in aesthetics. Allowing for and working with the imperfections is what leads to works of integrity, interest and authenticity.
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen