Teaching with Contemporary Art

Thinking Like an Artist, Part 1

Getting ready for this week's column

This Thursday and Friday the Guggenheim Museum hosts Thinking Like an Artist: Creativity and Problem Solving in the Classroom. Educators will arrive by plane, train, automobile, even on foot, to attend the conference. Lois Hetland will be there. Janine Antoni will be there. Jerry Saltz will be there. The lineup of presenters would make Joe Torre happy- a little high profile plus a little nuts and bolts.

Some of the many questions this conference will address include:

  • What is creativity?
  • What does creativity have to do with education?
  • Why design? Asking questions and solving problems.
  • Why does creativity matter beyond the arts and beyond the classroom?
  • What comes next? Creativity and the future of education.

In advance of the big show I thought I’d take a shot at just a few of the questions to see if my thinking even remotely lines up with anyone else later in the week….

What is creativity? Creativity is the ability to see and craft possibilities, and to give these possibilities form or a venue for expression and understanding.

What does creativity have to do with education? Creativity matters to ALL of education, not just the arts and humanities (See? I did learn something from John Hammond) because it’s the enemy of habitual, automatic behavior. It makes us take a step back and reconsider what we take for granted and what we haven’t really seen yet.

Why does creativity matter beyond the arts and beyond the classroom? First off, we all know that the arts do not have exclusive rights to whole concept of creativity. All disciplines need creative thinkers and participants. If the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf doesn’t teach us this, I’m not exactly sure what will. Just a few years ago Daniel Pink spoke at the NAEA conference in Chicago and made an excellent case for a future that will be ruled by right-brain thinkers. I tend to agree. The ability to think broadly, to think beyond what’s expected, is a tremendous asset at this point in time- across disciplines and around the world.

Finally, What comes next? How does creativity fit into the future of education? One day, and I hope it’s soon, we will assess students based on how they think and how well they can express what they think and do over time vs. judging them with one-size-fits-your-age testing. Creativity can help return education to thinking seriously about portfolio assessment for students across many disciplines. Instead of looking for the answer, we can start looking for multiple answers together.

More on the conference next week as Teaching with Contemporary Art looks in the rear-view mirror and reflects on some of the panels. See you soon!


  1. Kevin says:

    I agree with you that creativity matters to ALL of education, not just the arts and humanities. Without creativity, the society is impossible to develop forward. The key point in education is mind and thinking of students to be as creative as possible. So, it’s critical important to make our education system be suitable and helpful for the development of students’ thinking. I am a young painter from China. My website is: http://www.oilpaintingcentre.com I pay much attention on learning further and keeping my mind creative enough in my daily life, so as to create better painting works.

  2. Liz Sheehan says:

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the conference – it sounds like a great lineup.

  3. It’s exciting that educators are meeting to collaborate on the question of fostering creativity in the classroom–my best teachers and my best classes are the ones that have made me think creatively. I find that the most worthwhile lessons in school help form the student’s identity and self-understanding, and in this way, necessarily transfer beyond the classroom. What does it mean to think creatively? To think creatively is to exercise the mind, to strengthen connections and to arrive at novel solutions. Creative thought is necessarily self-reflexive: as people brainstorm individual and original ideas, they discover more about their thought-processes. Furthermore, it is critical to remain conscious of creativity in one’s daily life because creativity is about possibilities. When you are tuned in and receptive to a creative thought-process, you open yourself to a fluid and flexible way of life. By fostering creativity in the classroom, teachers provide students with a dynamic toolkit that will enable them to overcome the challenges they face throughout their lives.

  4. Joe Fusaro says:

    Without going into too much detail now that the conference is over, let me say that there were lots of positives and a few embarrassing negatives over the two days. Stay tuned for Thinking Like an Artist, Part 2, coming up this Weds afternoon in Teaching with Contemporary Art here on the Art21 blog…

  5. Pingback: Teaching with Contemporary Art: The First Three Years | Art21 Blog

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