Creative Genius

A colleague lent me this book. Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. I read the first few pages and I am really intrigued. Here is the cliff-notes edition of the first 5 pages.

The guy is a sculptor. He visits elementary schools once a month for a whole day. He sits with each grade one at a time. He basically starts the same way. “Hi, I am an artist! I noticed all the art work on the walls, there must be other artists here too. The great art on the walls makes me happy and energized. Who here is an artist besides me?”
Kindergarten: All the kids reach sky high and wave their arms around.
First Grade: Half the kids raise their arms shoulder high.
Second Grade: A couple of kids raise their arms tentatively. Looking around to see if it’s ok.
On and on it goes until the 6th grade where hardly anyone raises their hand and those that do try to be very quiet and subtle about it.

His question is: What is going on? What is happening to the creative spark that is inside of us?

I am going to read the whole book. Read the reviews on Amazon. I think this may be a special book.

2 replies on “Creative Genius”

Interesting topic. Having just completed a course this semester called ‘Creativity & Innovation’ this is something I’ve spent some time on recently, albeit not that particular book.

One of the most important take-aways from class this semester was: our culture has a deep-seated belief that only artists are creative. As most of us grow and find that we are not all that gifted in the various fine arts, we come to think of ourselves as not creative. It’s a neat little mental trap.

If you look back to the 1800s, you can see when this cult of the artist started to develop. There was a transition from artists being considered craftsmen in the employ of the wealthy & titled, to artists as independent agents or even ‘stars’. I suspect the societal changes that the Industrial revolution caused — urbanization and the specialization of labor, for example — also had a role to play here as well.

At any rate, the point is that by framing creative = artist, of course you’re going to see a massive dropoff in response. If he’d framed the question as “Who here likes to solve problems?” the response might have been different.

Well if you asked, “who here is good at multipying?” than the response would be the opposite, does that mean that the kids are more interested in math? no it just means that they are at an age when they can do more things (unlike younger kids when art may one of the few things they can do). Of course, the things that replace are art in older kids are supposed to be more “important” which is the questionable. I see art and creativity are a more important skill set than long division, but with a limited school day, what should older kids learn and what should be set aside. When the choices are reading, history, health, math, and a 2nd language, there may not be room for music or art. Of course if we taught kids to use excel and spellchecker than they could have more time to explore how creativity can expand their capacities.

Whatya think?