3 Questions

3 Questions with Arthur C. Nelson


Planner Chris Nelson on the importance of broad backgrounds, risk taking, and asking the hard questions.

3 QUESTIONS is a series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.

The MFA in Collaborative Design program welcomes Chris Nelson as part of the 2013-2014 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

“Sometimes personal invention happens without planning on it, but mostly it occurs consciously.”

Arthur Chris Nelson

Photo by Brad Baird, via University of Utah.

What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?

First of all, while in school, take as many different kinds of courses as you can, and double-major if possible. In Oregon and Washington, public colleges are on quarters which expands the number of courses by 50% over semester colleges. I owe a large share of my professional success in having a broader background taking courses at PSU than my peers nationally. Second, invent and reinvent yourself. Sometimes personal invention happens without planning on it, but mostly it occurs consciously. (I recommend The Inventurers: Excursions In Life And Career Renewal now in its third edition.)

How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?

As a professor I don’t really have a practice, but I seek new courses to teach and reinvent my current courses almost annually. But I also take risks by exploring new areas of inquiry that often turn out to be ahead of the field. So I enjoy a reputation as one who sees things happening 10-30 years ahead of when they materialize. I am motivated by constant change; seeing it, studying it, learning from it, and often helping to lead it.

Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?

When I realized early in graduate school that I was asking the kinds of research questions no one else asked, and knew I could also address them.

Chris Nelson‘s research and practice have shaped the fields of infrastructure finance, smart growth, land use planning, and metropolitan development patterns. Dr, Nelson’s latest book (of over 20) Reshaping Metropolitan America, is recognized as a landmark achievement by planners like Bruce Katz and Peter Calthorpe, who writes, “Finally we have a comprehensive view of how the American Dream is changing and why.” Nelson is Presidential Professor of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah where he is also Director of the Metropolitan Research Center.

— Posted on 03/03 at 05:56 AM

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