Who’s Teaching Creativity?

creativity-takes-courage matisse quote2Although the answer to that question isn’t everybody, I do wonder if we’re seeing the beginnings of a tipping point. More and more businesses are clamoring for creative employees, and universities across the country are starting to integrate the subject into their curricula. Hurrah! Are big business and big education seeing what art and design programs have known all along; that imagination and inventiveness are essential problem solving tools? Perhaps so.

Today’s online New York Times has an interesting article, Learning To Think Outside The Box, that fills me with encouragement. In it, author offers examples showing the University of Georgia, Penn State, and SUNY Buffalo/Buffalo State getting into the game with classes like “Introduction to Creative Studies” and “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”

Gerald J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State explains; “the reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.” “The marketplace is demanding it,” he says. The article highlights a 2010 IBM survey of 1500 top executives that backs him up. It states that CEO’s believe creativity is “the most important leadership quality,” trumping other characteristics. The reason why is simple; in today’s complex world where ambiguity and complexity are the norm, out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation are essential for building innovative products, processes, and delivery systems.

einstein creativity quote 2How do they teach creativity? At Buffalo State the process involves clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. Sound familiar? I guess design thinking isn’t just for Industrial Designers after all. Other programs focus on how to learn from failure. As artists already know, failure is just one step in the design process. Just think of the hours building and rebuilding that interior design model; of drawing and redrawing that still life; or of sewing and re-sewing that new jacket for your fashion design course. If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again, experimenting and learning along the way.

All of this is good news. Businesses are beginning to grasp the value of a creative education.  And they’re starting to realize what we already knew, that creative people are imaginative and capable problem solvers.

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Lessons For A Lifetime: Transferable Skills

Yosemite 1 (c) David Hockney

Yosemite 1
(c) David Hockney

Last week I had the good fortune to view the David Hockney exhibit, A Bigger Exhibition, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. What a treat! Clearly, this artist knows color. His intense yellows, vibrant oranges, and bright blues and greens are explosive in their depiction of the numerous portraits and plein air landscapes that comprise the majority of this exhibit.

I’ve been a Hockney fan for a while, but what really caught my attention this time was his exploration of new mediums. In 2009, just two years after the iPhone was launched, Hockney began using it as an artistic tool, using the touchscreen to “paint” dogs, flowers and everyday objects; then emailing the images to his friends. Lucky friends! In 2010 he turned to the iPad, and since then has positively exploited still and video cameras as well, pushing technology to portray the world as he sees it.

In one room of A Bigger Exhibition, attendees view an almost “Cubist-like” movie, created from digital video cameras. The results were synchronized and presented on nine 55-inch NEC screens to depict varied viewpoints of a changing landscape. Another room showed individual stroke and color choices as they were applied on an iPad – giving us a lesson in how Hockney actually paints. Throughout all, his distinct style, vision and color palette remain the same.

A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2 (c) David Hockney

A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2
(c) David Hockney

For many of today’s artists, the integration of traditional techniques with new mediums may not be a new phenomenon.  But what is blatantly clear in this show is the transference of skills, and of vision, from one medium to many.

Artistic skills are transferable. Don’t feel hemmed in by one major or area of study. Just because you decide to pursue a degree in painting, or sculpture, or fashion design doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re tied to that particular medium forever. What’s learned in one can be applied to another. David Hockney has clearly shown us the way to do that.

So, here’s my question to you: Given the skills you’ll gain in college, what limitations will you leave behind? What boundaries will you push beyond? I hope you’ll let me know.

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College News Updates: 9/13

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art

When classes begin and leaves start to crunch underfoot, it’s a sign that outdoor activities will soon take a backseat to indoor ones. And, that the college autumn lecture circuit isn’t far behind. As campus resources go, this is a good one. Many – if not all – art schools across the country use the autumn months to focus students, and engage the broader community with arts and lectures programming. The added benefit for parents is the lectures offer a glimpse into life after college, and the opportunity to hear from those who live as working artists.

Learning from those who’ve gone before you is never a bad idea. I’d suggest checking out what’s in your neck of the woods – at art schools, liberal arts colleges, and research institutions alike. You’ll get a different perspective from each.  And, it could very well prove inspirational.

Here are just some of the myriad programs I’ve come across. Some break them out by department, others group everyone together. Unless otherwise noted, all programs are free and open to the public, although some recommend reservations. Check online.

Amanda Ross-Ho, Cradle of Filth

Amanda Ross-Ho, Cradle of Filth

California College of the Arts, San Francisco

Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, Washington D.C.

Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn

Purchase College, SUNY, Purchase 

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Department of Art, College of Design

University of Texas at Austin

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Good News From The Motor City

The headline everywhere is the same: Once the fourth largest city in the country, Detroit has now filed for bankruptcy. In 1950 this thriving hub of the auto industry had a population close to 2 million; now it’s truly a shadow of its former self, with just 700,000 calling it home. And worst of all, to pay for its debts the city is considering selling artwork from its beloved art museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts. Nothing like ripping your heart out.

Yet I’m here to tell you there is good news in the Motor City. Midtown and downtown are in the midst of a revival, with 90% occupancy from new start-ups and those who want to restore and refurbish this fabulous metropolis.  And in the heart of it sits the Cultural District with the Motown Museum, Detroit Public Library, Science Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, and of course, the College for Creative Studies, (CCS) a non-profit, accredited, private art college of 1300 students.

Painting Studio (courtesy of CCS)I attended an open house information session at CCS last week, toured the campus, and felt I received an accurate impression of the college that in 2007 Bloomberg Business Week named among the top design schools in the world.

The college is split between two campuses – the Ford campus focuses primarily on fine arts and crafts, while the Taubman Center focuses on design. 12 undergraduate majors are offered, with a wealth of infrastructure to enable a strong basic understanding as well as encourage wide exploration in any discipline. CCS understands that college years are an investment in time and money. They support student and family investments with top-notch facilities and equipment. Tom Madden, Chair and Associate Professor in the Crafts Department, calls them “extraordinary.” I agree.

transportation studio close up 2Walking through the school I felt its mission statement come to life. They’re not teaching just art and design here. They’re teaching a path to a future career, with all the tools necessary to get there. Tools include a new way to communicate; by expressing and portraying ideas through art, whether a beautifully handcrafted wood sculpture or a flashy ad selling the hottest new shoe design. “Art is about language,” explained Robert Schefman, Chair and Associate Professor in the Foundation Department. “Our ideas are written down by drawing.” Those ideas are expressed through the illustration of a graphic novel, the line of a new car, or the interior design of a new restaurant. Additional tools include 42 credits of liberal arts classes, plus business lessons and a comprehensive understanding of how to show and sell your artwork in today’s digital world.

Students have the opportunity to live on or off campus throughout their four years. I climbed the steps to a fifth floor suite in the Art Centre Building on the Ford campus. (Easy to do when you’re young!) The apartment style set-up has two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room, large dining room, and a full kitchen. I liked the sunlit spaciousness of it, but felt the carpet could have used an update.

AudioEditing courtesy of CCSPre-College courses are available in numerous formats for those wanting to get a head start on their college education. And once enrolled as an undergraduate, Career Services provides an abundance of internship and networking opportunities. The sticker price for admission is $34,320, but CCS loudly claims that 98% of students receive financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants or loans. The message: don’t let sticker shock let you gloss over this school.

The day’s tour guides all wore bright green t-shirts proudly claiming, “CCS: Art lives in this city.” They’re so right. There is much more to share about this remarkable college – much more than just one post’s worth. For now, my suggestion is simple: go see it for yourself.  You’ll like what you see.

(Top and bottom photos courtesy of CCS)

Welcome Week

Compass Rose nsew bw.inddI’m going to guess that few college-bound students find a need for a compass these days, even if it is available as an app at the iPhone store. Good thing colleges provide their own directional tool; it’s called orientation. This real-life app guides parents and students as they travel to the new and often, uncharted territory that is college.

Orientation days on a college campus are a bundle of nerves. Uneasy ones can range from “what will my roommate really be like?” to “what if I can’t make it here?” and everything in between. Thrilling ones focus on the adventure of it all, life beyond high school, and – let’s face it, the most common one – “I’m so ready to live without mom and dad.”  Sorry parents.

Each campus holds its own unique orientation experience. Some early in the summer, some right before school begins in the fall. Some last a few days, others an entire week. Whichever way your college rolls, once you step foot on campus your time will be jammed full of information and connectedness. It’s an introduction to programs, services and people that will surround you over the next four years of your life.

The purpose is simple; set everyone’s mind at ease and engage students with this new place called “home.” For moms and dads it’s an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what life will be like for your child over the next four years. Tours and information sessions provide parents with peace of mind about residential living, available health services, access to professors and administrators, and how students will grow artistically and academically during their time on campus. Parents meet faculty and staff, tour the city around them, and share stories with other restless parents.

SAIC Dining Hall

SAIC Dining Hall

Students get the better end of the deal. They learn about resources and services available to them, in creative and engaging ways. Through workshops and ridiculously fun social activities that no one thought of when I was in college, students become acquainted with their new living environment and begin building friendships that will last a lifetime.

Information sessions are typically led by upperclassmen who were freshmen themselves just one or two short years ago. As peer, residential, and department advisors they introduce students to staff and administrators while disseminating valuable information about academic policies, course registration, and the slew of activities, clubs and organizations on campus. They openly discuss the stresses associated with living away from home – often for the first time – and provide freshmen with tips and resources to help with the adjustment.

Orientation workshops and meetings provide assurance as they educate students about the vast array of services and resources available including student health and counseling, financial aid, and career and professional development services. The pool parties, karaoke nights, competitions, field trips and campus-wide events help make the adjustment that much more fun.

Pre-orientation programs get the ball rolling even sooner. Designed to create connections and build friendships even before stepping foot on campus, they provide opportunities to hike, backpack, canoe or even surf (seriously!) your way to memorable experiences and new friendships, all in the name of engaging you with your new home.