Friday, March 20, 2009

Tamara on Creative Pratice

Tamara Kaplan is currently our Operations Manager, she is our former Program Director and has played probably every imaginable role here at New Urban Arts. Here are her thoughts on creativity.

First, toddlers scribble and color. They spin in circles with their arms stretched out. They sing to themselves out loud with conviction. They draw stick lines and fill in shapes with color. They make rainbows stretch over flat houses with red chimneys. They draw families holding hands while they stand in front yards.

In moments when young people become more aware of the world around them, of people who might judge them, these drawings, personal and risky by their nature, are lined up next to one another. Teachers and students compare and criticize, perhaps without intention, deciding who can draw more realistically. In these moments, they decide who is creative and who is not.

Inspiring the Imaginer in All of Us: A Framework for a Sustainable Creative Practice
by Tyler Denmead

There is a great children's book called The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. It is about this young girl who thinks she can't draw. Her art teacher asks her to make a dot on a piece of paper. After some examination she asks the young girl to sign it. When the young girl came into the class the next day, she saw her dot in a gilded gold frame above her teachers desk. To herself, the girl thinks, "I can make a better looking dot." And she makes more. After experimenting with big dots, little dots, and different colored dots, the young girl had an exhibition of her work at school. A little boy came up to her and said, "you are a great artist, I can't even draw a straight line." She gave him a piece of paper and said "show me." Once he was finished, he showed her the wavy line he drew. And the young girl said, "sign it."

To me, little kids have an inherent way of exploring life without "grown-up" rules inhibiting their imagination. Once we as adults put constraints around imagining possibilities, creativity can be stifled. Now, don't get me wrong...I am not saying that we need to make art everyday for kids to have imaginations or not making art will make kids not have an imagination. As a mom and educator, it just makes me nervous, when the word "talented" gets thrown around. The pedestal we can put our children on or not on could set a child up for failure.

What always excites me at New Urban Arts, is this non-judgmental lens in which we look at how art is made. It is about a process we go through. We may never get to a "finished" product but imagine what we are learning along the way. I always reflect on my high school art experience, where my teacher would have us paint or draw from wildlife books. If we could not get a line or color "perfect" he would take our brush or pencil and finish our work for us. I got A's, but did I really learn anything? Sure. I always learn in every situation, good or bad. I believed that there were different ways of teaching and learning. I believed that if I worked with young people, I would engage them in the exploration of seeing, making, and doing. It had nothing to do with the finished product but how one truly sees the world.

As I sit at my desk daily, I look up to see a great quote by Deborah Meier. "Democracy demands that we acknowledge everyone's inalienable capacity to be an inventor, dreamer, and a theorist--to count in the larger scheme of things." Just dream of a world of possibilities, where people can explore at any age the world of creativity. A world were we celebrate each line and dot, whatever shape it might be.

This morning, my 3 and a half year old daughter handed me a plastic photo sleeve. She told me it was a "blopert." I said, "that's cool."


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