show up. do good work. make life interesting.


Chance favors the connected mind.
— Steven Johnson

My name is Carl Atiya Swanson, it’s nice to meet you.

I’m a creative with an MBA, a strategic facilitator, an omnivorous arts-maker, and a practical optimist. I’m a third culture kid with a love of adventure, maps, good food, family, and exciting ideas that center people and culture. That’s where I get joy, in facilitating and supporting projects that bring people together, create beauty and connections, and make the world better. With a strong history in launching new projects, strategic planning, facilitating groups, nonprofit arts management, and the creative process, I’m always looking for opportunities that share my values.

I believe in getting a little lost…

Along this journey, the discoveries come when you really look around, when you have to figure out where you are. Strategies are iterative and emergent, and the process of moving from one place to another takes time, effort, observation, and care. Experiencing, documenting, and sharing the journey makes it richer and opens possibilities.

I believe in making things happen…

We are here on this Earth to do, make, and create together. That means being accountable to one another, showing up with creative ideas and practical solutions, and delivering on our commitments. Being connected to each other lets us be transparent and communicative about our needs and desires, so that we can lead fulfilled lives. 

I believe we can do hard things…

We build our communities and networks through being open and committed to each other, which lets us imagine new futures that are more inclusive, just, and accepting. From the individual to the communal, a commitment to our common humanity, and to truth and reconciliation makes our future together possible.

I believe in holding hope…

We have so much in this world, and there is enough to sustain all of us, if we choose to be open and connected. The systems that feed scarcity and fear, our own sorrows and insecurities, these are real barriers that need to be faced. Hope is that light in ourselves, sparked by our surroundings and communities, that feeds us.

I believe in finding joy…

Inspiration and creativity is a practice. Get up, go out into the world and find the things that delight and inspire, and hold them close. Share them, draw energy from them, use them to inspire and connect with others. We are not alone, and joy brings us together.

Be in touch

It's the 21st century, so I'm pretty easy to find in a lot of digital corners of the world, but I always like meeting in person. Be in touch about consulting, planning, or facilitation projects, freelance writing, or other creative endeavors!

* Email
* LinkedIn
* Twitter
* Instagram
* Tumblr

Recent Writing

* Art is who we are, cities are what we do, reflections on AFTACON
* In Joy, On Purpose, on meaning-making and work
* On Fragility & the Work We Do Together, feature for In Studio Magazine
* Five Years of Creative Exchange, marking that anniversary

…And if you’re looking for a professional bio…

Carl Atiya Swanson is a creative with an MBA, a strategic facilitator, an omnivorous arts-maker, and a practical optimist. His mission is to facilitate and support projects that bring people together, create beauty and connections, and make the world better.

Swanson currently works as Associate Director at Springboard for the Arts, a national leader in artists resources and artist-led community development. He manages projects across Springboard's program areas, leads development and partnerships, and launched Creative Exchange, a national hub for stories and toolkits for artists and organizations to solve local challenges and create new opportunities. Since the launch in 2014, over 8,000 toolkits have been downloaded from Creative Exchange, facilitating artist-led projects, business skills development, and creative placemaking projects. He has presented on arts leadership, creative placemaking, and community engagement for Americans for the Arts, the Delta Regional Authority, IdeaLab, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and others.

Swanson previously worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and founded Crown & Sparrow, a boutique communications consulting firm specializing in work with artists. He is a theatermaker and has served on the boards of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network - Twin Cities, and Dissonance, advocating for mental health and wellness in creativity. His writing on arts and culture has been featured in In Studio Magazine, Spin, City Pages, The Onion's A.V. Club,, and other outlets. Swanson holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

See my current resume here.

Image courtesy of Visit St. Paul.

Image courtesy of Visit St. Paul.