"A lack of creativity has a real consequence. ... Strategists always need to think outside of the box. ... You can't have discovery without creativity." – Karla Raines

About the Creatives–In–Residence Program

Our residency brings artists and creatives of various disciplines together with purpose-driven strategists. Creatives share their inspiration, process, and advice for living a life filled with original expression.

During their month-long residency each creative shares a showcase workshop, authors a guest blog, and leaves us with their tips for nurturing a creative spirit.

Differentiation Zone is proud to share their creative talents with you. Sign up to receive announcements about showcase workshops and guest blogs. This year’s program features the following creative talent.


Now accepting applications for 2021 and 2022.

March – Wil Alston, jazz musician and songwriter 

Wil Alston has quickly established a solid footing in Denver’s jazz scene. Debuting in 2013 to a sellout performance at Lannie’s Clock Tower Cabaret in downtown Denver, Wil brings a velvet smooth baritone voice that delivers classic and contemporary jazz standards with grace and richness.  Wil has become known as a respected songwriter that pours his heart and his many experiences into his songs and his performances.  Not willing to be boxed into a specific genre, Wil says his music blurs the lines between traditional jazz, gospel, and R&B. Wil is also the Director at Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships.

April – Mona Lucero, fashion designer

Mona has a love for both fashion and art. This results in clothing that is often whimsical, frequently elegant, and always unexpected. She specializes in making designs that make every “body” look great and believes her mission is to help each person find their personal expression: indeed, a devotion to style.

Her training, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado at Denver and an Associate in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, have enabled her to bring together the two disciplines into her signature style. She often incorporates fine art techniques and concepts such as found objects, collage, and sculptural shapes in her designs.

May – Mari Geasair, actor and director

Mari Geasair is an actor, director, and communications coach in the Denver region. She helps individuals and organizations develop strong differentiation, professional presence, and distinctive value in their market sector. She specializes in helping high-end consultants, business founders, coaches, and leaders to reach more people, share their value more powerfully, and change more lives for the better.

Her work combines speaking and presentation coaching, expertise positioning, virtual course curriculum development, and an on-demand course in using video to support and attract clients.

June – Adrian Miller, chef and author

Adrian Miller is a food writer, James Beard Award winner, attorney, and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, Colorado.

Adrian received an A.B in International Relations from Stanford University in 1991, and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1995.  From 1999 to 2001, Miller served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton with his Initiative for One America – the first free-standing office in the White House to address issues of racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation. Miller went on to serve as a senior policy analyst for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr. From 2004 to 2010, he served on the board for the Southern Foodways Alliance. In June 2019, Adrian lectured in the Masters of Gastronomy program at the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche (nicknamed the “Slow Food University”) in Pollenzo, Italy. He is currently the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches and, as such, is the first African American, and the first layperson, to hold that position.

July – Flor Blake, photographer

Flor Blake is a portrait, editorial, and commercial photographer with a style consisting of imaginative, vibrant, and dynamic imagery.

Her professional background includes all aspects of theater, documentary coordination, video production and editing, and a degree in Advertising from the University of Puerto Rico. She loves traveling (even if it’s across the street), eating delicious food, and celebrating people’s birthdays. Flor is based in Denver, Colorado where she lives with her wife Ileanexis and their three plants.

August – Rebecca Vaughn, visual artist

Rebecca Vaughan currently resides in Kansas City, MO and was born and raised in Denver, CO. She has lived in the Netherlands and Canada. She received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and BFA cum laude in Sculpture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. To more fully pursue her art career, she departed working in non-profits and presently instructs part-time for the Kansas City Art Institute and UMKC.

She recently exhibited her work in the Biennial of the Americas exhibit First Draft and the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition Thief Amongst Thieves. She has shown widely in the Colorado region as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico, Canada and China. Her work has been in publications including the Chicago Art Journal and KnitKnit. Vaughan has received state grants from the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities and the Ohio Arts Council.

September – Recommend a creative to us

October – Recommend a creative to us 

November – Peter Illig, artist 

Peter Illig is originally from New York and has been an artist and teacher in Colorado for over 30 years. He is represented by Walker Fine Art in Denver and has been a member of Denver artist co-ops such as Pirate Contemporary Art and Spark Gallery. His work has been selected for numerous ‘Best of Colorado’ shows over the years, and is found in many personal and corporate art collections.

Peter Illig’s paintings are analogies for human emotions and experiences – American psychological landscapes – reflecting how we think of several things at once. He layers images borrowed from film, TV, cyberspace, art history, and his own experience like a coded cultural language of symbols to express his ideas.

December – Recommend a creative to us

Before applying, you must read through the residency guidelines and social media engagement guidelines. Click the links to access each document.

Residency Perks

  • Enjoy a free Discover membership valued at $179/month for up to 12 months


  • Begin participating with our community the month before your residency


  • Engage in a monthlong creative residency


  • Receive an autographed copy of Karla book, Differentiated


  • Enjoy a Strategy Studio webpage during the residency


  • Cross-promote on your social media. We’ll cross-promote too


  • Invite the purpose-driven leaders in your community to a free Explore membership in Strategy Studio


  • Earn a $1,000 stipend

Residency Responsibilities

  • Engage in a monthly residency


  • Deliver a custom educational program


  • Publish a guest blog


  • Produce a written list or video with tips to foster a creative life


  • Earn a $1,000 stipend


  • Enjoy a Strategy Studio webpage during the residency


  • Serve as an Influencer for our suite of offerings


  • Create co-branded social media content to engage your audiences with our offerings