Trey McIntyre co-founder heads to new territory

John Michael Schert accepts a fellowship in Chicago.

Idaho StatesmanSeptember 2, 2013 

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Trey McIntyre Project co-founder John Michael Schert at his home in Boise's North End.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman Buy Photo

John Michael Schert will be a visiting artist and social entrepreneur at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He’ll have an opportunity to explore the connection between the artistic process and everything else.

“The thing I’ve most loved doing is the big thinking about ideas,” Schert said. “How are artists affecting communities? We have the potential to change our society. I feel there is an era coming when artists will be seen not just as entertainers but as thought leaders and creative role models.”

Schert spent his dance career in the world of classical ballet at American Ballet Theatre — and in contemporary dance with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and Boise’s Trey McIntyre Project.

Schert moved here in 2008, when he and McIntyre chose Boise over offers to establish the company in New York and San Francisco. Making its headquarters in a small Western capital captured the imagination of the arts world, which has watched as TMP flourished in the Boise Foothills.

Under Schert’s and McIntyre’s guidance, the company has grown to become one of Boise’s icons.

Along the way, Schert discovered his talent for reinventing how nonprofit arts organizations function.

TMP reshaped the dance company model by empowering dancers beyond performance, diving into new media development and new ways of engaging audiences. It took dance off the stage and onto streets and into offices.

Schert honed his skills in public speaking, giving keynote addresses at national and international conferences about the power of the arts to transform culture.

Now he’ll play on a larger stage and work in a field of study that doesn’t actually exist yet, says Harry L. Davis, professor of creative management at the University of Chicago.

“I’m looking forward to surprises,” Davis said. “When one goes in new directions, you bump into dead ends along the way and discover things that are unexpected.”

Davis has been at Booth for more than 50 years, studying, researching and teaching strategy and creativity in business, and using theater models to develop best practices.

The business world is changing quickly, and leaders are looking for innovative ways to navigate social media, growing technology and a shifting economy.

That’s something he and Schert will explore when they co-teach a class on creativity in 2014.

“I think of Harry as my new mentor,” Schert said. “It’s exciting to take everything I’ve learned as an artist, arts executive and nonprofit entrepreneur and see how they integrate into other aspects of our society.”

Schert will also work with UChicago Arts, a program that integrates the arts into other disciplines. He will interact with the Harris School of Public Policy, the law school and other colleges, the south Chicago community at large, and master’s students and faculty. He’ll teach a few master’s classes in the dance department.

His fellowship officially begins in September. The residency begins in November. He’ll spend 26 weeks on the South Side of Chicago over the course of two academic years.

The goal is to leave things open and allow ideas to develop, said Carroll Joynes, the senior fellow and co-founder of the university’s Cultural Policy Center.

Joynes met Schert at the Harris Theatre in Chicago in November. Schert wasn’t performing that night and gave a presentation about the company to a group of donors at intermission. Joynes was impressed and invited him to return to Chicago to continue their conversation.

“I knew he needed to meet Harry,” Joynes says. “They really clicked.”

The fellowship is important for a university that historically has focused more on scholarship than the arts, Joynes said.

“We’re at a particular moment — with the building of the new Logan Center for the Arts — where there is excitement around the arts and how they can engage the community.”

Schert will keep his house in Boise and remain a core member of The Gang, a creative think tank at Boise State headed by professor Nancy Napier. This fall, he will dance with Lar Lubovitch in New York, consult on the intersection of health care, education and the arts in Milwaukee, and start working with organizers of the Treefort Music Festival in Boise.

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

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