Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

When celebrity, creativity, and collaboration combine to create community wealth

Sunday, February 15, 2015


            Celebrity and creativity are not the same thing. Sometimes they do not even overlap. Not all celebrities are creative and not all creative types are celebrities. But when the two come together the results can be astonishingly powerful. 
Witness the phenomenon of Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes, which he created for the website design company Squarespace, raising more than $100,000 for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign of which he is national spokesperson. It would be easy to assume they wanted him for his draw as a well-known celebrity. But Squarespace was smarter than that. They hadn’t just approached Jeff for use of his immediately recognizable voice and image, but to help create, design and shape the entire project.  
The first thing Jeff did was engage in creative collaboration with other artists such as Keefus Ciancia who composed the score for True Detective  and helped record the tapes’ ambient sound, and Lou Beach a writer and graphic designer who came up with the album cover.
            Known primarily as an actor, Bridges also has a successful band, is an avid photographer, draws, and writes.  On a cross country flight we shared not long ago, he came to the back of the plane to join an informal brainstorming session of Share Our Strength staff.  Jeff spent several hours fully engaged in proposing and vetting ideas for communicating the devastating impact of childhood hunger, mobilizing more young Americans on behalf of the cause, and capturing the attention of policymakers.  He’s always been accommodating when it comes to press conferences or signing autographs, but it was clear that his real strength to share consisted of his creative juices.
            The results speak for themselves. The Sleeping Tapes @ are a one of a kind blend of sound, humor, philosophy and art that are getting the attention a celebrity like Jeff Bridges can bring to it. The ad agency Wieden + Kennedy brought additional creativity to the communication and marketing of the project, including a much talked about Super Bowl ad. Such combinations of creativity and celebrity are designed to promote commerce and yield wealth, but in this case it was a very different kind of wealth called community wealth because it goes directly back into the community, with 100% of the proceeds used to help feed hungry kids by enrolling them in school breakfast and summer meals programs.
            Celebrity, creativity and collaboration – not a bad formula for changing the world, or at least making it a better place for our children.