Creativity has been rigorously studied in people of all ages. Whether it is in children and education or adults and business, experts are making a career of trying to understand what it is and what value it may hold. Of course, it was initially understood as a competency of artists. Now it’s blazing a path through the business world of competitive innovation. Currently we see that creativity is not a skill that some people have and others do not. It can be experienced in any age and across all areas of life. When deciding how to spend time with children, it is worth drawing on both artistic practices and modern research for support.
Fostering imagination and creativity has been one of the aims of Aardvark Arts, a non profit organization based in Wrocław. Projects developed for youth and children explores the intersection of art, culture, technology and education. One of its initiatives is Creative Summer, an arts program day camp for children 8-15. Participants choose what they want to explore and are encouraged to make bold artistic choices and take creative risks.
Seth Compton, Aardvark Arts founder and director, shared a set of “creative moves,” along with the examples of how they were animated in workshops from the 1st edition of Creative Summer in 2018.
Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization.
At the heart of any activity must be joy. Find the joy. With the smallest encouragement, even competitive children will begin to play for the sake of playing, rather than winning. Re-examine the rules, the task, the materials. Ask children if we can make the game, the out come, the process better… or different. Reflect. Can everyone enjoy this activity? How can we include more people in this game? Explore. Question. Let the imagination go.
In Space music, an electronic music class, children did not need to be given an instruction book to figure out how to use a synthesizer, computer and speakers. Gentle guidance by the leader to help get them started was all the children needed before their natural ability to play got them going. Before long the children realized that if everyone was pressing buttons at the same time it didn’t sound like music. Again, the leader stepped in to introduce some music fundamentals, beat, melody, vocals, and rhythm. The children’s own playfulness led them to blend DYI instruments, field recordings, and sound apps to literally eventually produce soundscapes that were out of this world!
Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. – Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist
Do not copy. But get inspired. Look, observe, see what you like and apply it to what you do. A chef can look to a chemist, a toymaker to an architect, or a snowboarder to an aeronautical engineer for ideas to improve their work.
One of the classes at camp was called Steal like an artist. The leader shared big movements in art history with the children: Picasso, Dali, Pollock. By examining form, technique and materials the children were in turn inspired to create new artwork. Stolen inspiration led to individual implementation.
“Being creative involves doing something … Creativity involves outting your imagination to work. In a sense, creativity is applied imagination. Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds
MAKE IT! Just do it. Turn vision and ideas into reality. See what you have, make a plan and roll up sleeves. Here is a danger. Children and adults will often feel a rush of excitement leading to this moment of creation. And their first experiments do not turn out as planned. That is part of the deal. Plan for this. Expect it. Change the plan if it doesn’t work. Or if you don’t like it. Or if you have an idea to improve it. But eventually you will need to move on to the next thing which will get better.
In We are designers children were given a design task: create a toy, imagine a new animal, invent a machine to solve a problem. They had to create a process of iteration. Take their idea, examine the materials, and rethink their plan. Going back to the drawing board is a good habit to
develop for any process. Our first ideas are rarely our best.
Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
Creativity has been interrogated over the years. New research leads to new practices and thinking. But there is one thread of research which artists and scientists have not revised: allowing for uninterrupted time. Channelling our attention can be hard today with devices and constant connections. But this skill lets us get deeper into a process. When focused, we can see higher levels of mastery and complexity. Being in a flow of controlled attention circles back to the first “creative move” and allows us to find more joy in what we are doing.
Time and slow steps were the key feature of Paper Animation. The tasks was to make a 2D animation. The steps were clear. There was immediate feedback. Either the children made progress or they didn’t. The drive and motivation to achieve the tack was instantly recognizable. Children would run into the room and get started instantly. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have a finished piece. These effects of slow work were simply amazing!
We hope this inspired you to explore some new fields, or maybe smile at the thought of what you’ve already created. Remember, “creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living” – Madeleine L’Engle.