Artists of World Change

More news here today of teachers layoffs. And, of course, art programs are the first things to be cut in tough times. How can we create a new economy, indeed a more equitable world, when so few of us understand the creative process? When we don’t know how to be creative, we tend to be passive and expect governments to solve problems. That mind-set hasn’t worked. The government has washed ashore like a great whale—and sits there until a new wave carries it back out to sea.  But we can use creative thinking to make the changes we want to see in our societies and lives. Here’s the good news. I have a studio at an art center that sits next to Boston. As I write, the place is swarming with kids enrolled for the summer art program. Our education program here is the center’s great strength. We have a theater too and gallery space. And every theatrical production, every concert by a young band, every art show is part of the mission to involve kids and adults in creative endeavor. When I teach art, I see how the simple act of drawing not just gives people skills but changes lives. We learn to express ourselves and show up in the world no matter our skill level. We learn it’s okay to try and to fail but also that we’re capable of achieving what we set our minds on. We learn perseverance and courage. And, best of all, drawing makes us smile. We carry that positive energy with us when we leave class. Art takes us into a place of peace where we see clearly what obstacles are and ways to leap over them. And we learn to take action. Art isn’t just about the things we make, it’s our teacher. Art has never ranked high on our list of educational priorities because we think of art education as teaching the skills to make art. While this is true, art education also helps develop character. Reading, writing and arithmetic are core skills for any kid, along with languages and science. But art and music too have a critical role to play if we’re to solve problems. Art-making teaches courage, perseverance and creative thinking. It teaches us how to create something of value where nothing previously existed. It shows us we can make things and change things. Creative thinking is different than analytical thinking. When we engage in creative thinking we don’t just come to conclusions—we explore freely, entertain the improbable, take risks and make something. Our creative work is engaged with the world around us and we use the same kind of open exploration to bring it to an audience in a vital way. Analytical thinking helps us steer the ship. Creative thinking brings it home. In a world facing critical challenges, we need creative thinkers. We all need to find the artist within and nurture it. How else will we develop solutions to overpopulation, poverty, health care issues, energy, environmental problems and conflict? In the midst of challenge we, as creative people, can step up. We can ignite and grow our own creativity through the practice of an art form. We can engage our kids in the arts and teach them to be creative thinkers. We’re all inherently creative and we can and will create a new world, one artist at a time. ©Cat Bennett2010 [For The Huffington Post]

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