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What would our mental health issues, our prison system and our drug culture be like if we nurtured creativity instead of sqaushing it?

I heard Temple Grandin speak once and she said that our prisons are full of artists and poets and other creative thinkers. I live with a susbstance abuse counsellor and his patients are often creative people who have been slotted for jobs they are not suited to. I've taught studio art at the college level for 30 years and know that if my students didn't have the opportunity to make things and express themselves this way, they would find it restrictive and disturbing. Any thoughts?

  • Oct 8 2011: If you think of it, the creative spirit is how we go forward with anything. If early humans were not creative they would never have advanced out of very simple beginnings. Creativity encompasses all endeavors that change things from the way they are to a new way of being. Even thought processes. It is not only art. It is a part of our humanness.

    Have you ever met a person who says "I don't have a creative bone in my body."? What a shame! Maybe they don't recognize the creativity they do have. Maybe creativity has been relegated to only Art, meaning it is only superficial, we don't need it to survive. I love Art and do a lot of creative, artistic things myself. But I think creativity has to be put into the broader context of its usefulness. Then it can be relegated to the place it really deserves in our society's value system.
    I get unhappy when I do not, for whatever reason, get to work on creative endeavors. I think that art, even art just hung on a wall, has a great usefulness- it feeds the soul, the imagination, the feelings, the mind, the senses. The creative process feeds those also. It is beyond food, shelter and clothing. Societies have been judged by their art - a thriving society has time and resources to put into creativity and thus go forward. They are remembered, valued, emulated by their art. (Think Rome, Greece, Egypt, etc.)
    I think creativity should be revered and nurtured much more than it is, in our society. Children who are allowed to be creative (some parents don't because it is "messy") learn so much---eye/ hand coordination, spatial thinking, colour, shapes, materials, If I do this, then what? trial and error, etc,etc. I can't imagine raising children without letting them loose with creative license to do whatever they can think up. I think adults need this opportunity as well. It keeps the mind and spirit alive in so many ways.
    Creativity can be applied to many areas of life- take cooking, gardening, inventing also.
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    Oct 7 2011: I employ the arts to work with offenders and see the practice more as therapeutic than offerings to the high art world. Art has always been therapeutic for me - its just one of those endeavours that you can at once lose yourself and then find yourself. In short , it heals. Our system however is not set up for arts employment. we are the lowly ones unless of course you can make it big like a rock star

    I recently saw an add for an artist "Great opportunity for an artist"Of course they wantede the artist to work for nothing, paint a mural facilitating young people to do it - for nothing. They had employed plumbers and gardeners and electricians and cleaners to fix up this space but the artist was required to work for nothing and teach young people at the same time. - great opportunity. It makes me angry that we so undervalue arts practice, certainly here in Australia. .And unlike the mythsuggests poverty does not help creativity, I've found.

    I'm not sure that the people i work with are all budding artists but the need to pour things out is real. When the voice abandons you, the hands might not. Creativity is quashed however in many ways particularly with the young and in fairness unwittingly by the adult around. I remember a teacher telling me that a peice of art work i made was the worst piece of art he had ever seen. It quashed my hopes and aspirations and i got a job iin a bank and left art for a number of years. I then returned to complete my degree with distinction and won some awards - I still havent thanked that teacher!

    In my practice i am very mindful of not quashing people's creative aspirations . Contemporary art in particuar allows most people to express themselves wholly. A mark is a mark - unique and almost always interesting.
    • Oct 8 2011: Thanks for the response, Phillip. I especially like your last comment. A mark is a mark.

      Yup, artists get asked to work for free all the time. I get calls every week and I often place my students, but I ask that they be remunerated...even if it's a small amount. I won't let them work for free. They end up undervaluing themselves. In my own small way, I've been on a mission about this. People are always surprised, but they do come through and they value the students' work in a whole new way.

      Poverty may not help creativity, but I have seen it flourish in cultures don't have the opportunities that some do. I'm thinking of some time I spent working in Cuba. The lack of resources made them very resourceful!

      About the prison thing...I was thinking (prodded by a speech by Temple Grandin) about people who need to function in creative ways to thrive, who become distorted or wither when that spirit is not nurtured, and how their lives might have been different, and how our society might be different as well. I function well with structure and without it as well, but I have spent 30 years teaching studio art and I know I've had a disproportionate number of students who struggle when squeezed into predetermined, proscripted programs and then flourish when they are given a little more breathing room. I've had a few who ended up in prison, but they managed quite well in the studio.

      Sir Ken is right...we don't need an evolution, we need a revolution. I'm retiring from the "system" this year and am going to try a different approach to teaching.

      PS. Sorry about the bad teacher you had....it's difficult to find the right words sometimes, but important to do so. Then again, some people are just jerks.
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    Oct 7 2011: Wow that is a monster topic and probably worthy of a Doctoral Thesis in human social norms and psychology!!!!. May I make a guess here? If people want to be creative they have the free choice to be creative. I personally do not restrict creativity to the Arts alone. I may be wrong but I tend to think creativity can be found in all areas of endeavor not only the arts. Architects are creative, plumbers can be creative, ( I use a plumber that is a very creative person) I think even maybe a CPA could be creative ( well within the limits of law since really creative CPA's can end up in jail!!!!!) As to prisons I am not qualified to speak, I have taught middle school and have had students involved in the drug culture and there were in several creative classes such as choir, photography, and drawing. Thus, I am not really sure that the change would be significant because as I am sure you know drug use is a very complex issue with profound mental issues to deal with but maybe directed creativity would help them find an antidote to the need for a high? As far as the jobs thing we all make choice to stay in a job or not is my philosophy so I am not sure of a big impact until they choose to change what they are doing I guess. I appreciate that you have a much longer back ground than myself in the arts and creativity.
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    Oct 7 2011: The impact on the prison system would be indirect. Creative people do not commit crime, simply because they do not work in a job that promotes creativity. You can be creative in a non-creative environment, plus you can have creative hobbies. In that sense, promoting creativity would have little to no impact. What it does impact, is mental health. Which obviously would have a large impact on our prison system.

    If you're asking about teaching creativity in prison? Well... I don't know. I could argue for or against it. I do support creative outlets in prison though. Having available art supplies would be an example.
  • Oct 7 2011: I was only using art and poetry as examples. I also have a very creative plumber and have suffered through a few who were not. I realize that access to a creative environment, materials and support are not essential. I have worked as an artist in many countries and cultures, some third world countries, and I have seen the creative mind and spirit alive and well in every one of them.

    I was thinking more about what our society would look like if we nurtured the creative spirit early on in our educational systems, and gave it respect and support throughout. The point being, if we could demonstrate the value of using the creative process to provide children the opportunity to find their life's work, might that impact the vast number of "misfits" we seem to produce?

    I've been lucky as I imagine you have been, in fiinding what you love to do. I learned early that I was a maker of thing and that I love learning. Being an artist and teacher satisfied both needs. But I amalso influenced by the beauty and elegance of mathematics, appreciate the practicality and wonder of science, and the analytical power of statistics. What can we do to make more people that "lucky"?