Social Artistry

Social Artistry is a leadership practice sourced and developed by Jean Houston.

Social Artists apply principles and practices of artistic mastery in resolving social and cultural challenges. Social Artists learnt to analyze and respond to situations on four levels—sensory-physical, psychological-historical, mythic-symbolic, and integral-unitive.

To learn more read Social Artistry: A Whole System Approach to Sustainable Analysis and Leadership Practice by Skye Burn and Jean Houston (2015)

I hold a Bachelor in the Psychology of the Creative Process (2001, Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies/WWU) and a Master of Leadership in Social Artistry (2008, Graduate Theological Foundation).

My Journey as a Social Artist

Civil Rights Movement 1960s

I acted acted on stages in Seattle between 1967 – 1969, in George Bernard Shaw plays directed by Horace Campbell and performed on Stage One in the lower level of the Pike Place Market and at Black Arts/West, in plays about sub-currents of racism written and directed by poet Aaron Dumas at Black Arts/West, who was the playwright in residence. The theater was located around the corner from the Black Panther Headquarters. After a performance on tour in Portland, Oregon, I was mooned by White Supremacists who screamed at me with loathing twisting their faces.

Skye Burn – Portrait of Aaron Dumas – Silkscreen poster

Inter-religious Dialogue for Multi-cultural Understanding

I received the vision for The Story We Are Living in 1979. For the first twenty years, I did the basic research. In 2000, I received an out-of-the-blue invitation to present my research at a conference of the International Society for the Study of European ideas at the University of Bergen in Norway.

I arrived in Bergen straight from the island where Richard and I lived. I found myself amidst of hundreds of leading thinkers, all with PhDs and stylishly dressed. I had a high school diploma and was wearing 2nd hand homemade clothes.

My presentation on The Goal of History drew the attention of Professor Liubava Moreva, Director of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research and holder of the UNESCO Chair for Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, Their Specific Cultures, and Interreligious Dialogue. Professor Moreva invited me to join a multi-year research project that she was conducting under the auspices of UNESCO. The project brought together eminent scholars, religious leaders from diverse traditions, philosophers (including Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, and Stephen Erickson), some government leaders, and a few scientists and artists from around the world “To develop new ways of understanding the dynamic of contemporary culture.” It was like a think tank. We met once a year and exchanged ideas.

Former Russian Academy of Sciences, in St. Petersburg, where the dialogues occurred.

On behalf of the UNESCO Chair, I organized an international conference which looked at psychological and philosophical issues underlying global conflict. The conference on Unity and Diversity in Religion and Culture was held at the Seattle Center in January 2005. It was sponsored by nine universities and colleges in Washington, Oregon, and British Columba. For their contribution, Cornish College of the Arts commissioned an original composition for stringed instruments on the theme of the conference. It was performed at Benaroya Hall.

In 2007, I was appointed Associate Member of the UNESCO Chair. The certificate says, “In honor of her valuable contributions to the research of fundamental issues in cultural studies, as well as inter-religious dialogue for inter-cultural understanding.

My work with the UNESCO Chair culminated in 2006, when I spoke on the Responsibilities of Global Citizenship at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. I entered the Master program directly thereafter, although I continued to edit English translations of books for the UNESCO Chair and UNESCO Moscow Office until 2010. Click here for a list of publications 

Being part of the research project and organizing the Unity and Diversity conference helped me develop the idea and vision for The Story We Are Living. As an artist, I paid attention and went where the work led. It led me to Russia. Through serendipitous and timely encounters, it led to an incomparable opportunity to test my ideas and compare and exchange ideas with great minds. Such was my education.


The Flow Project

After completing my Masters of Leadership in Social Artistry in 2008, I co-founded and then directed The Flow Project, a 501c3 non-profit organization which conducted research with groups of emerging and accomplished artists (who worked in diverse mediums, from dance to photography) to identity principles and practices of artistic mastery common to all mediums. Our research model combined Grounded Theory with Action Research.

Skye Burn, Director, The Flow Project
Douglas Banner, Inquiry Director

As we identified the principles and practices of artistic mastery, we began to see how they could be integrated into leadership theory and praxis. The Flow Project was impactful. (Above all, an artist seeks to get an effect.) As the project Director, I published many articles on the connection between art and leadership in peer-reviewed journals. I presented regularly at international leadership conferences. In 2010, I attended the 2nd UNESCO World Summit on Arts Education in Korea, where The Flow Project mission statement became the third goal of the Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, with little modification. As a results arts education programs around the world began exploring and refining the strategic use of arts education to change society and modify culture toward a more generative and creative dynamic.  

In addition to local and regional influence, The Flow Project partnered with the University of Aruba and People Power, a Social Artistry-based consulting company, to transform the education system in the island country of Aruba through teaching leaders in the system the principles and practices of Social Artistry and art-infused leadership, beginning with offices in the Ministry of Education then moving to superintendents, principles, and lead teachers. I retired mid-way through the four-year contract. When I retired in 2015, Douglas Banner became The Flow Project Director. The Flow Project ended when the contract was complete. The four sets of nine month seminars transformed the education system in Aruba. It created a different cultural habitat for the students. Since the work in Aruba ended, Doug and Jan Sanders, our People Power partner, have been analyzing the effect on the four levels. I hope their research finds a publisher soon, because significant insights were gained.

While I was directing The Flow Project, I engaged with other non-profits.

Honor Day Foundation

I served on the Board of Directors. The Honor Day Foundation was founded and directed by Silversong Belcourt, of First Nation Cree ancestry, who passed from this world with her mission accomplished. Silversong was an angry young woman. Silversong was an artist. When her heart was ready to relinquish her anger, Silversong went to tribal elders in North America and asked “What is missing? What does my heart cries out to heal?” The elders unanimously replied, “Honor. Honor is missing.” Silversong invented a process for restoring honor in communities where honor is lost, as it is now in the global community. To learn more about Silversong and her awareness:, based on the book Spirit Moves: The Story of Six Generations of Native Women by Loree Boyd:

The Great Balance

After 9-11, Russia gave the United States a sublime sculpture by Zurab Tsereteli to memorialize the world struggle against terrorism. The ten–story sculpture is called the Tear Drop memorial. It stands across the harbor and frames the space where the World Trade Center stood. In 2010, after attending the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women at UN headquarters in New York City, I and three colleagues asked, what is needed? What does the world need to restore balance? In a space of creative collaboration, around the dinner table overlooking Central Park, we came up with the vision for The Great Balance project. When the intention became a reality we paid to have an engraved paving stone installed at the foot of the Tear Drop sculpture, with the words The Great Balance. It seemed appropriate, metaphorically.

Charter for Compassion

While directing The Flow Project, I served on the Board of Directors for the International Compassionate Action Network, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that laid a foundation for implementing the Charter for Compassion. Seattle was the first city in the world to adopt the Charter for Compassion as a guiding principle in city policy, notably in the judicial system. Created by religion historian and theologian Karen Armstrong with engagement of religious leaders representing diverse traditions worldwide, the Charter for Compassion has since been adopted as a guiding principle by 70 cities in over 50 countries.



Everything on this page was done in preparation for The Story We Are Living. None of the work was paid, except The Flow Project work in Aruba, which beginning when I left the organization. Had I sought to be paid, I could not have gained the experiences or learning. By practicing frugality and through a judicious use of air miles, my husband and I saved and afforded my travel expenses.