Augustana Center for Teaching and Learning
The Importance of Creativity
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who was awarded The Thinker of the Year award. On the faculty of the University of Chicago, he wrote a bestselling book in 1996 in which he developed a theory of flow, which explores the idea that artists find their work satisfying. He believes creativity is the central source of meaning in artists’ lives. Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Csikszentmihalyi calls this full blast living. Creativity is not limited to artists; certainly all of the liberal arts benefit from innovation, from asking “what if?”
Design and creativity are natural partners; both require seeking connections and new combinations. Curiosity is also essential. When studying design there are traditionally thought to be about five main sources of design inspiration: the natural world, the “manmade” world, geometric design and systems such as the color wheel or a grid, historical ornamentation, and the “inner landscape” of dreams, ideas, and feelings. Overlapping several of these inspirations is the potential afforded by travel. Study abroad or away from home provides new points of view, new awarenesses, and often opens up new aesthetics. In studying the aesthetics of other cultures the wealth of imagery for the visual arts is immense. The heart of new ideas lies in borrowing, adding to, combining, and modifying old ideas.
Willingness to go out on a limb can be challenging for students who want to succeed, who want to “do it right.” By encouraging students to not be satisfied with the first solution to a problem--to add to or subtract from a piece, to try something in a different way, to turn the piece upside down or inside out, to keep experimenting--creativity and “risk taking” is stressed. A certain amount of comfort zone is helpful, with the reality being for student and instructor that at the end of the day or week or term, something does have to get finished and turned in.
Csikszentmihalyi said if you do something by accident people call you lucky; do it by design and people call you creative! More importantly though, he believes that we should try to be surprised by something everyday. When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it. In encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible we help broaden their horizons and pave the way for thinking outside the box. If we assign a composition in which the “negative” space becomes “positive space students may realize that outside the box IS the space we need to explore to be truly creative!
Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Department of Art
INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS FOR STUDENT LEARNING CONFERENCE
The Innovative Partnerships for Student Learning Conference is designed to bring together faculty, administrators and students from all types of higher education institutions as well as business and community members to share innovative practices and research on partnerships to promote learning. These partnerships are many and varied and can include valued connections between the curriculum and co-curriculum or between on-campus and off-campus experiences. The conference, hosted by Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and Heartland Community College, will be held on September 25, 26 & 27, 2008 in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Submission deadline for presenting is February 29, 2008. For more information click here.
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