Idea Blog

How to Pet a Shark

Posted on: February 20th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

You have to use two fingers when you pet a shark. You line them up side by side. Then gently place them in the tank. Let the shark come to you. It will avoid you if you reach for it. Show no desperation.

Most humans spend time growing inside the body of another. Eventually, we surface for air. It is complex and not complex at the same time. The sharks rise to the surface and feel the fingers, flat and together. Often, our mothers hold us, we the newborn.

I am thinking of a story called ‘How to be Kind.’ The plot, naturally, includes mostly unkind acts and regret. There is much sighing and quiet and longing. The characters ask to be held.

At the aquarium in Kentucky, we saw sharks. Some in tanks, some in great pools. They swam and mingled. Later, I was upset or maybe you were. The memory becomes a swarm of the feelings made at the time. They too, swim and mingle.

It is good to see faces in the mind. In that space I might make them any way I choose. We are born giving pain. We are born without memory. Our mothers hold it for us. The pain and the memory.

At the bottom of the tank there are not jewels or colored stones. It is empty. No plant life. At night, sharks sleep and drift. When the tanks are dark and the groping hands are gone, does peace exist? Nearby, the jellyfish glow.

The sensation is both smooth and violating. I find myself empathizing with the sharks. They swim past, waiting to be touched. Not a Shark

Make Space – How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration

Posted on: February 13th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Harvey Burrell

How do creative people share space?

This is one of the biggest issues when designing a multi-purpose space. The book Make Space draws upon the experience of the Stanford and design consulting firm IDEO. Both of these firms have been heralded as leaders in fostering creativity. The book raised a lot of great questions about space and challenges designers to think beyond the cubicle. It also offers a hands on approach to building a space. Building a space is also a way to build a community. The people involved then become “invested owners rather than entitled users”(31).

Questions to be Answered:

How do we define thresholds/ transitions into new spaces? How do we signify this change?

How do we balance the need to keep storage secure with the desire to have it visible? (Visible tools tend to foster creativity)

What is the attitude or ambience you want your space to create?

How do spectators enter the space? Can they observe quietly and engage when interested?

How do you account for a variety of learning styles in one space?

Ideas to Borrow:

Casters in unexpected places. Allow furniture to move and be reconfigured as needed.

Idea generation happens in a space separate from where we share our ideas. If you share an idea too early it can be squash

Labelled water bottles are an easy way to reduce impact and foster community.

Clear signage. Labeling cabinets and hooks makes it easier for new users and ensures things end up back where they belong.

Headphones = do not interrupt. Have them available.

Put writable surfaces everywhere you can.

The take away message from Make Space is that creative minded individuals need to work in a space that has a “bias towards action”. All the elements that go into a space need to be there to foster creative ideas.



It is worth noting that even companies as large as Facebook and Zappos have started designing offices that follow many of the principles outlined in Make Space.


Posted on: February 12th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

We are filled with bones. We carry them with us, daily. The mind changes. The bones change too. But the change is not quite the same. In aging, some bones become hollow. Does this make us bird-like?

As a child, I disliked birds. I preferred dinosaurs. Did the one evolve from the other? We are animals moving thickly forward in space and time. My niece forms castles from rocks. Things remain the same, but perspective changes. Dinosaurs become birds. The brontosaurus never existed. A pile of stones is a pile of stones is a castle. I have a collar bone. Once, it was broken. In mirrors, I see it reflected. Everything is cyclical, but nothing feels cyclical. Each day is new so how might it be seen as being like any other? How close must we look? In gestation did I have a collar bone or did my mother, briefly, have two?

Yesterday I wanted X. Now I want X.  What is constant if all things are variables? The changing nature of change. I sit in the mush of my own brain. Has the mush changed over the past five years or is it the outlook? It would seem that life follows an imperfect circle. The tree it forms keeps growing. It is still a tree, not a bird. It is round and wide.

Time is happening. I must hold onto my bones. They remain inside.



Posted on: February 4th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

I dreamt my mother had lost her hands. I awoke in a California king. Citrus grew outside. Lemons, grapefruit, oranges, clementines. Balloons floated in the pool. Mountains rose on either side. This is a place I hadn’t been to before.

It is strange to fly across the United States. The deserts, vast. The earth like so much dried up fish skin. After I saw the film The Passenger I couldn’t stop thinking about dust. Wouldn’t it be nice to swim inside our own unconscious apart from ourselves? That way we could look at all the thoughts, order them like paint strips. Today, I am latte.

To return eastward we flew over the Pacific Ocean. An arc. The ocean appeared. I thought, oh, all this time this is where I was. On the lips of the land. We know things in different ways. Seeing the water then, it felt like I hadn’t known the land ended. Islands appeared. All of our consciousnesses lined up, it becomes a chattering world.

What would she do without hands? Do we learn more from order or from parataxis? This is a word I have just, myself, learned.

From Plane


Posted on: January 28th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

There is something about being in a car and not moving. Three hours in one spot on the highway. Parked. The strange sense of false movement when the other lanes begin to creep and you are standing still. Up ahead, is there blood? Is the asphalt a canvas of someone else’s’ loss? Humans in still unison.

I have spent time in cars: parked, moving, idling. It can be a good place to be, the car. I picture all the air from all the cars I’ve ever experienced. That closeness. It filling an auditorium. A stadium. Me forgetting the individual moments. The memories I hold in a state of constant revision as I remember and re-remember them.

We’re in an empty parking lot. It’s the weekend. The white lines like rows and rows of even teeth. Our youth flexes its thin arms. What is that strange feeling of holding a memory in your gut? The atom splits with sadness and joy together. A place of motion, and you held still. Rephrasing a sentence. The night is hot. It is a hot night. How do the changes affect the characters? Is that what I wonder about? Part of my life is spent in traffic. Part of my life is spent in traffic. If I say it twice, does it mean something unique each time? I am trying to remember.

Hey, Car.

The Joy of the Sing-Along

Posted on: January 21st, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

Sometimes I listen to music. It is an oftentimes thing. This act, the listening to music, is a thing that many people do. In the past week, on Tuesday, I saw a singer perform. It was a thing that I had been anticipating a good deal. Only, in the days before the show itself, the anticipation stopped. It ceased and there was instead something of a feeling of dread or anxiety. This feeling or intuition was not misplaced. I do not believe the show was something that I could have enjoyed only this realization came latent. It was during the first chords of the first song that I realized I wasn’t actually there.

I am currently re-reading a text that is a favorite of mine, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I am thinking about certification. Certification occurs when an individual sees his or her place of living portrayed in a film or on television. I have twice lived in places that were certified. Once in New York, and then again, here in Nashville. At the time, I am not sure that this led to any greater feeling or sense of awareness. The more I think about certification, lately, the more it starts to make sense to me. In Percy’s essay, “The Loss of the Creature,” he describes how it is almost impossible to see the Grand Canyon if one approaches it in the traditional ways. However, if one were to stumble upon it—the experience and vision would truly have the potential to be their own. Seeing a place that we see everyday is impossible, but perhaps the act of seeing a place we know from the perspective of a film makes it knowable to us anew.

I was never going to be able to see Jeff Mangum. The levels of premeditation, the fandom, the traveling—it all led to an experience steeped in the inauthentic. I have more of a chance of seeing him alone in my car on a drive to anywhere than I did that night. And in a way, this is the best part. Authentic experience is everywhere. Waiting. So the work to be done is my own. Here’s to listening.

-Rebecca Bernard, Curb Creative Writing Fellow

Mutability and the Everyday

Posted on: January 10th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

I have lately taken to modeling small animals out of clay. They form a menagerie on my windowsill. I dream children’s stories. A family of ink who live in a pool in a printing press and one day the youngest son becomes a letter ‘e’ on the 30th page of a copy of The Great Gatsby. A family of dust mites who live in the pantry only to be swept away—their life a series of peregrinations, closet to closet to bureau. Sometimes I model things other than animals. Haley’s comet. A flower. A traffic light. I take requests. There is a settling agent in making something out of nothing. We all see many things each day, form many thoughts, arrange colors and shapes into sense and idea. Perhaps it is the concrete that allows for breathing room. An emptying out of sensation into form. I look at the same walls everyday, but each time I see them they have the opportunity to appear as new. So it goes.

-Rebecca Bernard, Curb Creative Writing Fellow


Doug Aitken Interviews on Creative Process

Posted on: January 9th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Elizabeth Long Lingo

Interested in hearing Jack White, Beck, James Murphy talk about their creative process? Check out multi-media artist Doug Aitken’s new installation of filmed conversations:

Doug Aiken and Friends: What is the Source of Creativity?

Hat tip to Curb Scholar, Keith Berquist

2012 Boot Camp–Asking Experts to Translate their Practice

Posted on: December 28th, 2012 | 0 Comments

by Elizabeth Long Lingo

One of the challenges in offering a creative practice boot camp is helping experts translate their everyday practice into teachable hands-on workshops that can engage participants from all backgrounds–faculty, staff, students–and from all parts of the University. In my research, and as I’ve developed my programs at Vanderbilt I regularly ask “experts” to describe, illuminate, teach their actual creative “practice”—the joys and difficult challenges they face, the complexities and tradeoffs they need to manage, the implicit assumptions that shape the way they work.  The “teaching” approach is so different than the request for the typical keynote speech or presentation of information—which often preferences success and final results over process and wisdom gained over time.

As a society I feel we rarely ask individuals to do this, and as a result both experts and “students” of all ages miss out on a wonderful opportunity to translate, reflect, and learn.  So, I offer my great thanks to all the presenters for embracing this invitation to share and translate your practice.

Great thanks to this year’s presenters for sharing their knowledge and wisdom, Empathic Interviewing (Jacki Lyden, NPR);Improvisation (Second City Improv); Storytelling (Minton Sparks), Brainstorming (Barry Kudrowitz); Looking/Thinking by Analogy (Kerry Ruef, The Private Eye); and Data Visualization (Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design).

Studio CRB's First Release to iTunes

Posted on: December 28th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Darker Days (iTunes)

Written and Performed by Emma Grager

Produced, Mixed and Recorded by Scott Marquart & Branden Sanders at Studio CRB

The first of many to come.