Creative Campus Innovations Grant Awarded to ACP and RAUL
February 28, 2011 – A quick google search of “creativity crisis” yields over 9.5 millions hits. Most articles and cited research point to a recent Newsweek article titled “The Creativity Crisis” that has garnered a lot of interest in the education world (Newsweek, The Creativity Crisis, July 2010, http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html#). Identifying a “crisis” may be the easiest part of this issue, though; getting students to think creatively and explore the creative process – especially for students who expect an extrinsic motivator to perform, or are there simply to fulfill a degree requirement – is much more difficult.
How exactly does an educator foster a learning environment that kick starts a student’s creative juices, and how can we create courses that inspire creativity in a diverse body of students? Can we create a course that stimulates deep learning by arousing creativity?
The Office of Arts & Cultural Programming (ACP) and the Research Academy for University Learning (RAUL) at Montclair State University (MSU), are intrigued by the question of artistic creativity, and how it can be integrated into myriad disciplines to ignite ingenuity, innovation and critical thinking. They have secured the highly competitive Creative Campus Innovations Grant, awarded by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to “identify, support, and document cross-campus collaborations that integrate the performing arts and work of performing arts presenters into the academy and the community.” During this academic year and the next, the grant will facilitate the participation of visual/theater artist Robert Whitman, artists from the UK-based company Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, and iconic American director Robert Wilson.
To answer the questions that generated the grant proposal and to meet the requirements of the two-year grant, the ACP and RAUL have formed a team of eight MSU faculty members to create a multi-disciplinary course on creativity, based on the famous course developed by renowned artist and educator Paul Baker (http://www.bakeridea.org/ ) that produced many creative people in a wide variety of fields. Using Baker’s methods laid out in his book, “The Integration of Abilities: Ideas for Creative Growth” (Anchorage Press, 1977), the team will work closely with visiting artists and collaborate extensively on course creation that inspires creativity and celebrates the creative process in the classroom.
Work on the course began in September 2010, and has involved regular team meetings and several work sessions with visiting artists. For example, in October the committee met with Scott deLahunta, Director of R-Research at Wayne McGregor|Random Dance (http://www.randomdance.org) and Liz Lerman, Artistic Director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange (http://danceexchange.org).
DeLahunta returned to the MSU campus in February, with other members of Random Dance, to conduct workshops with students and meet with the committee. Additionally, he and members of the company will participate in a symposium on creative thinking called Brainstorm, scheduled for April 12, 2011. Brainstorm will feature a public conversation with artists such as Robert Whitman and choreographer Elizabeth Streb, discussing the role of creative thinking in their own work (please check the ACP website for emerging details on this event).
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will perform The Matter of Origins March 24-27, 2011 (http://www.peakperfs.org/performances/matter_of_origins), and the committee members have been invited to participate as “provocateurs,” who lead small-group discussions in the second act of the piece.
Recently, the committee also met with Jeroen Olyslaegers, playwright and author, who wrote the text for Jan Fabre | Troubleyn’s Prometheus-Landscape II. Many exciting and productive threads came out of the conversation, which ranged from the nature of Jeroen’s collaboration with Fabre, to Fabre’s creative laboratory process, to Jeroen’s own background and influences, and the ways in which these processes and values might be translated into the course. One particular thread that translated across disciplines was the question of intuition: its importance in the creative process, how to foster it, how to privilege intuition over rational thinking in a way that produces creativity; yet also to be able to examine the product of one’s intuitions and look at them critically.
MSU faculty members include Jerry Fails , Computer Science; Harry Haines, Chairperson, Communication Studies; Mika Munakata , Mathematical Sciences; Tiger Roholt, Philosophy and Religion; Debbie Saivetz , Theatre and Dance; Marissa Silverman , Cali School of Music; Ashwin Vaidya , Mathematical Sciences/Physics; and Yawei Wang , Marketing. Jedediah Wheeler, Executive Director of the ACP, Carrie Urbanic, Community Engagement Director, and Ken Bain, Vice Provost for University Learning and Director of RAUL, round out the committee.
The work-to-date – collaboration with the artists, team discussions, and a course outline – will be presented by several members of the committee on May 4, 2011, at the RAUL-sponsored University Teaching and Learning Showcase. Key formative evaluation will take place to mark the progress of the collaboration and identify continuing steps in developing a Promising Syllabus, a fully developed course outline and evaluative processes. For more information, visit: http://www.montclair.edu/academy/programs/events.html
The virtual Creative Research Center http://www.montclair.edu/creativeresearch of Montclair State University will support the University Teaching and Learning Showcase through active involvement in the day’s activities. Dr. Neil Baldwin, the CRC director, will serve as the on-site commentator/blogger/rapporteur.