Creativity is Child’s Play

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“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung

Artwork by Clayton McCracken, one of my former students. Clayton is currently attending Savannah College of Art and Design.

Artwork by Clayton McCracken, one of my former students (2013.) Clayton is currently attending Savannah College of Art and Design.

There is a ton of evidence to support the idea that play is essential to invention and creativity. In his TED talk, Tales of Creativity and PlayTim Brown, CEO of IDEO an “innovation and design” firm talks about the importance of play in the design process, which includes experimentation with materials, and role-playing to understand behaviors. Super-interesting stuff! Watch it here.

Many top firms now include play as a component of the workplace. From Google’s famous indoor slide, to Apple’s volleyball courts, employees are encouraged to play at work and to work at play. Companies are realizing that to have innovative output, there must be a culture of trust, encouragement, and collaboration that is enhanced through shared discovery. There’s even a National Institute for Play, which supports research about what play can teach us at any age.

One of the happiest times in my life was when I was in my final year of working on my MFA. I was preparing my thesis exhibition and teaching 6th grade art part time in a rural, public school. I taught the first three periods of the day, finished around 11 a.m., and then made the 30-minute drive back to my studio in the city. I had just completed two grueling, serious, emotional years of study where the competition for shows and attention was cut-throat. Getting the job with these kids saved my soul because they reminded me that art is FUN! I watched the students learn by taking risks, being goofy, not necessarily succeeding, but trying anyway, and being proud of their efforts. It was refreshing to take that attitude back to my own studio where, frankly, I was so stressed out, that making art was not so much fun. I had become nearly immobilized by critiques and exhibitions and competition and output, that I forgot to play and explore. As a result of my experience with those awesome 12-year olds, I was able to find the vigorous part of my spirit in art making once again.

Do you give yourself permission to discover, experiment, and suppose? When you were a kid, what activities were the most fun? How did you investigate your world? How can you imbue your adult life with more silliness, inspiration, and inquiry in order to advance your creative ideas now?

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