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Sustaining a Creative Spirit

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the sense of purposes that outrun evidence and of meanings that transcend indurated habit.” John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934).

An artistic or arts based education is well known to have wide reaching impacts on the development of character not to mention physical coordination and mental agility. While it can also be very challenging to integrate such a perspective and commitment in the classroom, the importance of developing a creative spirit and intelligence enables us, as Dewey says to sustain our purpose and meaning when evidence evades us. So how can we keep this spirit alive?

Sometimes it is about building creativity into the very environment and everyday life you inhabit through art on the walls, sculptures, photos, fabrics, and creative tools close at hand so when someone asks to work creatively, there is something for them to work with, be it crayons, clay, paint, feathers, dirt etc. Other times it is about visiting with artists in their studios, taking art lessons with others, going on art walks or visiting museums where you can be exposed to works of art and can engage in some yourself. There are also times to explore the arts alongside other lessons; for example, my students in intercultural communication may focus on a culture and the kinds of art or creative expression that culture uses to communicate its values. In Kenya, for example, the beads women make and wear communicate social status, age, community etc.

But nourishing the creative spirit doesn’t always have to focus on work. Studies now show that recess or play times for children in and out of school prove valuable as this is their time to experiment with creativity and imagination in social interaction with others. Then there are the ‘toys’ or any objects with which we play — and the simpler they are, the more creativity is used in constructing them in multiple forms! Building blocks made of old pieces of off cast wood (even better if the kids have painted them or worked the wood and oiled them up); felt toys sewn by small hands or even handmade felt where kids can see just how wool, soap and hot water do their magic then craft their own special something for someone; or how about creating your own musical instruments, with pots, pans, strings, cardboard and don’t forget the plastic comb wrapped in paper? Chances are good that if you cast your mind back to your own childhood, you will find some very imaginative ways to keep your own creative spirit alive. If you run out of ideas, check out the Invention Playhouse. It’s a true treasure trove for curious and creative minds!

So go ahead, take some time out to create a creative environment to sustain your creative spirit and play…….!

With thanks as always to our artist — Today is a good day

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