creative institute

Creative Institute Class In Session | Photo Credit: Kalen Kemp, atLocal

Growing up, Executive Director of the Creative Institute, Jessica Crum, always loved art and creating. When it first came time for her to choose a career path, she felt limited and believed her only option in the creative realm was to become an art teacher. She almost took that path until a chance meeting on a train in New York City inspired her to instead pursue a career in fashion design. Since moving back to Arkansas from Los Angeles, she has often thought, “You know what, there’s so much creative talent here. Why isn’t Conway known as a hub for creative talent?” It was her experience that she needed to move away from here to pursue her creative dreams, but what she realized upon returning was that opportunities for creative careers are actually abundant; yes, right here in Central Arkansas.

creative institute

Executive Director, Jessica Crum and Program Director, Nick Stevens at The Creative Institute

Now, with a 14-year-old daughter who is a self-proclaimed abstract artist and designer, Crum doesn’t want to tell her daughter that she, too, has to move somewhere like Los Angeles, Nashville, or another city where they support the arts. What she has come to realize is that the talent exists here and the opportunities exist here…. The two just need to be connected.

That connection happens at the Creative Institute. As a gap-year program, students of the Creative Institute do a series of work-based learning classes where they spend 30 hours with a creative professional in photography, copywriting, video, and graphic design. They also have some professional, communication, and life skills courses to help them develop as a person and professional. All the while, they’re completing 20+ projects and getting to work with at least a dozen clients. By the time they finish the program, they have quite the portfolio to show potential employers.


Student Taking Photos During Photography Course

The program utilizes local creatives and professionals to instruct, guide, and provide hands-on experience to program participants. This has offered a unique opportunity for connections between young creatives and professionals who are actively using creative skills and talents in their careers.

Program Director, Nick Stevens, said that the community’s reaction to the program has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. He said:

Their immediate response to our vision is, “Yes, please! Thank you! I wish I could have done something like this. I wish I could create something like this. I want to help with something like this!” So the energy and the desire for it is all there. Another high is the people on our team, as far as instructors, they are just incredible at what they do. They are so talented and excited to pass that on to our students and do it in a very organic way.


Discover Days Participant

Whether you’re looking to explore your options for creative careers, seeking a hands-on training opportunity, or simply looking for a “career reset,” the Creative Institute might just be your answer. Prospective students are invited to come to Discover Days, held the third Thursday of every month, to explore everything The Institute offers.

In addition to student opportunities, the Creative Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization offering many partnership connections for schools, co-ops, and local businesses. Want to learn more? Visit



Brianna Virden

Author: Brianna Virden

atLocal Street Team

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