May 16th, 2014
Steven J. Tepper is a frequent participant and presenter at Western States Arts Federation (Westaf) gatherings, and his March, 2014 remarks are now available on You Tube. One of the respondents to a session on “Perspectives on Creativity,” part of the larger theme of “Creativity and Innovation in Public Education,” Tepper offers a wealth of ideas in his five minute response:
- Creativity can be defined as “non-routine problem solving”
- Social life is inherently hostile to creativity, as it disrupts norms, institutional behaviors, and the routine social interactions which value order over that edge of chaos
- That edge of chaos threatens power, as people’s interests are often served by being able to do things they way they’ve always done, and challenges to that norm are usually rejected
- One real question for us to consider relates to the politics of creativity–to understand creativity, we have to understand the political forces that keep creativity at bay (the institutional forces, the political forces) and how we can push back against the powers, the intrinsic interests that want to keep things the way they are
- Creativity comes with all kinds of transaction costs. It’s not efficient, it requires time, it often leads to rejection, it is cognitively difficult, it requires risk and failure, and it doesn’t always support our careers.
- Because of these transaction costs, cultivating creative environments tend to be one-off phenomena/initiatives accomplished by energetic, committed individuals; the momentum then often snaps back to “normal” because that energy can’t be sustained.
- Another important question for us then is How do we make creativity more efficient? How do we create routines for the non-routine?
- And finally, a policy-related question: Are we using creativity as advocacy? Or are we interested in creativity as policy? For example, what can creativity do for the arts? or what can the arts do for creativity? We must acknowledge that the arts don’t have a monopoly on creativity, and not all arts foster creativity in every context. If we treat the arts and creativity as another tool in our toolkit to get more of what we want for ourselves (i.e., the oft-heard phrase “more funding for the arts), are we forgetting to think about what’s best for the arts themselves, what’s best for creativity, our kids, and the contexts our kids are in.?