Sunday, October 20, 2013

Creativity Doesn’t Have Age Limits

After my juniors finished a unit over Native American creation stories, I challenged the class to create their own worlds and write narratives explaining their inventions. I never get tired of seeing what teenagers come up with and how they share it. After some deep thinking, one young woman focused on her love of movies. Another developed a tale based on her love of farming while several young men put together stories centered on the outdoors or sports. These youngsters’ efforts made me think about what realm I’d produce given the opportunity.

At the time my students were working on their projects, I enrolled in a Joy of Painting class at the Dane G. Hansen Museum. This particular course provides a pre-selected subject for the artwork. Using various brushes and paints, each artist chooses how to develop his or her own piece. If there are 30 artists in a class, there are 30 different paintings.

When I first arrived, I examined the teacher’s model of that day’s subject, a huge whitetail. I was eager to learn to paint a big buck surrounded by pines and dark, cloudy skies, but I noted a few details I wanted to tweak. I visited with the instructor to be sure my changes were something I could manage without taking more time than the class allotted. When she gave the go ahead, my brain went into overdrive considering what I needed to do to make this painting mine—in essence to do what I’d charged my students to do-- to create my own world.

That is what artists get to do. Writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, movie makers, photographers, and other creators take charge, for a little while at least, to produce an existence of their own making. For that instant, an individual gets to pick words, rhythms, mediums, color, characters, and other details necessary to manufacture something unique to that spirit. If an artist is lucky, his or her creation will connect someone else’s spirit, and he or she’ll get to enjoy a moment of appreciation.

We live in a world that seems to me to get further and further away from individuals creating. We enjoy other folks’ constructions—video games, movies, and music, but it doesn’t seem that we are active participants in actually creating a finished product. Maybe I’m longing for something that never really existed, but when I listen to elders’ stories or read books about the good ol’ days, one thing folks did together was create. 

If there was a gathering, anyone who could play an instrument joined in a little impromptu music making. Women gathered to construct beautiful quilts out of leftover scraps, and communities put on plays and declamations. People didn’t think they needed lots of classes before they were willing to participate in something like sewing, painting, or playing an instrument.

Young or old, it’s good to create. It’s necessary to encourage youngsters and grownups to dabble in imaginative endeavors from making radishes into roses and creating sculpture from spaghetti and marshmallows to painting and playing instruments. Getting older shouldn’t inhibit people from making new worlds. Creativity doesn’t have age limits. Look at Grandma Moses.

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