Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Get Serious About Building Creative Communities

We say we want to be more creative – personally and collectively. We want our kids to be as creative as they can be. Businesses want their employees to be more creative so they have better innovation potential.  As citizens we want to enjoy creative endeavors – going to arts and culture events, creatively engaging with electronic media, taking classes in activities such as ceramics and painting.

And yet, we don’t seem to have the determination to understand creativity learning or the will to develop our collective creativity. The education system has stripped much of its creativity teaching, its arts programming, from the curriculum leaving teachers and PTO’s to find their own funds to support these activities. Arts organizations work hard to provide this programming, often at considerable cost to their own sustainability.

The business cry for creativity is pervasive in the literature and current commentary. The 2010 IBM Global CEO study revealed that creativity is the number one issue facing CEO’s.  But where are they going to get it if generations of students have had little to no exposure on developing their own creativity skills? Also, there is a strong tendency for business executives to think creativity is ‘too squishy/artsy’– let’s focus on innovation because that’s about productivity. Well, how will we be innovative if we haven’t honed our creativity skillset?

Too little work has been done on the link between the creative economy and neighborhood development. In fact, it has been proven that the more creative activities are a part of neighborhood life, the stronger the neighborhood because people connect  better and their will be more diversity and commitment to community sustainability.  Check out Mark Stern’s research powerpoint. 

And then there is personal creativity engagement. Research is showing that people are beginning to spend more time creating their own art than attending the spectator arts events. How about this - over 75% of adults attended arts activities, created art or engaged with art through personal electronic media – versus the 35% that attended spectator arts activities. This survey also shows that adults creating or performing arts are six times more likely to attend arts events. Please see NEA 2008 Survey of Public Participation in theArts and the excellent WolfBrown multi-year analysis of arts participation, Beyond Attendance.

So, on many levels of community – personal, business, education, neighborhood – there is a desire for more creativity engagement. There is strong recognition that in order for our communities to be resilient and sustainable we need to expand our creativity capacities - our ability to bring new ideas and new ways of thinking to fruition along with new ways of working collectively.

I suggest it is time to develop creative community strategies – understanding the ‘creativity capital’ of a community by inventorying the creative opportunities available across all ages, then looking for ways to integrate and connect these opportunities for maximum effectiveness, and then developing an overarching community strategy to grow the breadth and depth of creativity engagement for all its citizenry. 

Enhanced creativity across our communities will help this nation be the best prepared and most resilient for any future scenario.

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