ADR & Activism Through Art – Maya Angelou and Frida Kahlo


We already started this week talking about creative ways to persuade and I want to continue this week focusing on creativity and negotiation role models.  Two women immediately come to mind, as they each used their genre to give the reader/viewer perspective on different life experiences.

Maya Angelou based much of her work on her own life–from her childhood (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1968)) to her early career as a singer and actress (Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976)) to taking part in the civil rights movement as a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and close friend of the Kings (The Heart of a Woman’ (1981)).  She was a bestselling author, was asked to give the inaugural poem at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration (and won a Grammy for that recording), wrote and acted in plays and movies, and even wrote an award-winning cookbook!  In short, (and one could say much more about her career), she was a true polymath–someone who was talented at everything she tried.  Many of us have long heard about or used Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin as examples of this (or just use the phrase Renaissance Man without thinking of its inherent sexism)–let’s replace those examples with that of Maya Angelou.  Angelou could be our role model for creative approaches that need to take different perspectives–think atlas of approaches or six hats.  How would Angelou view this conflict as a poet?  How would she view it  as a cook? (think our own negotiation recipes for success) How would she view it as a political activist?   How would she view it as a screenwriter?  For the cute mnemonic, think Atlas like Angelou.

Frida Kahlo also used her art to highlight her life and to insist the viewer take a different, atypical perspective on her life.  Linked to our subject last week, Kahlo was also incredibly candid about her life, painting her marriage, her miscarriage (in a painting that was far more graphic than Chrissy Teigen’s photos), and how she felt after her divorce.   In many of these, she paints different dimensions on purpose–her Two Fridas (below) is an illustration of how we each have multiple perspectives.  And her Self Portrait with Cropped Hair was both seen as both portraying herself as independent and masculine as well as portraying (female) self-punishment for the failure of her marriage.   So much of her artwork is a visual representation of perspective, role reversal, and flipping. The mnemonic here could be Flip like Frida.

My goal with all of these blogs is to continue to propose different role models for negotiation skills where we either have not had women as models at all or could use different role models to add to our repertoire of examples to give our students.  Let me know what you think!  Who else should we talk about when giving examples of creativity?  And how would you edit or add to these examples?  Thanks much for your comments.


Andrea Schneider

Before Andrea Kupfer Schneider even knew or understood the words negotiation or mediation, she figured a way to outsource her chores to her younger brother by paying him a part of her allowance.  Not a new trick, but noteworthy that she hit upon the idea naturally. Such is the somewhat… MORE >

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