The Politics of Creativity (& Education)…Part One

Lets face it. It’s a vicious cycle.

  1. Arts are not a priority or valued at the level they should be in our educational system.
  2. The Trickle Down Effect: Governments cut funding to the arts. School Boards cut the arts programs. Artists must find creative ways to practice their craft.
  3. Early critical thinking skills amongst our children and youth suffer.
  4. Government, industry and business all come back to artists & creative thinkers to ask them how to think creatively, but….there are less artists, and less creative thinkers.

Rinse and Repeat.

Take up a voice in championing the arts in education at the K-12 levels, or the arts funding cuts will continue to occur. In the end, our society will suffer because we have failed to impart critical thinking skills necessary to solve the complex problems of our society or to provide alternative education methods. Everyone learns differently and for many, arts-based methods make more sense than any other form of pedagogy.

Our systems have let us down. At the end of the day, it falls upon wise parents to impart not only art skills to the best of their ability, but most importantly, the critical thinking processes involved when creating in the arts: brain skills that everyone requires. Many parents try their best by introducing arts process to their children through local community arts classes, but these come at a cost when they should be integrated into our educational system.

While there continues to be federal tax credits to encourage Canadian children to participate in sports, there is no tax credit provided for participation in arts programs, despite the Harper government’s promises.  Toronto-based artist, writer, director and arts advocate Shannon Litzenberger outlines that well in her blog post, “The Arts Policies Diaries: Budget 2011 – An Event of Little Consequence.”

There are many ways that we can begin to implement arts within our daily activities in order to create a culture of creativity and create better thinkers in all sector of our society.

We simply have to work together.

Any question around whether or not these are valuable skills can certainly be answered by looking at how business and leadership are struggling and backpeddling quickly to “learn how to be creative and innovative.”

Have a look at this recent article, posted by Schumpeter in The Economist which was brought to my attention by friend Dr. Steve Taylor, Associate Professor of Management at WPI. That’s only a drop in the pot of the big business that has grown up around creative consultancy industry and organizational development.

Secret SauceEveryone seems to want the quick-fix “secret sauce” of creativity that artists possess. I got a call last week from a fellow artist who had been asked by a group of academic higher-ups and EO’s at a certain Canadian University to “teach us what artists know” in a couple of afternoon sessions. Would I help? ………. Are you joking? We both snickered and I suspect there was eye-rolling going on at his end of the line. It’s becoming a sad inside joke. I had a buck for every time someone asked me this, I’d be able to fund the arts programs myself.

Nothing gets my blood boiling than the establishment wanting to tap artists and “know what they know” in a quick fix, without them taking the time to get some paint on their hands and their clothes or consider paying them the equivalent of what they might a high-priced business consultant, some of whom I know for a fact, receive small fortunes to tell industry CEO’s how to be creative “solution-makers”. 99% of the consultants aren’t professional arts practitioners themselves but try to pass themselves off as such. I consider them in the category of snake-oil salesmen.

Seriously….would you go to a surgeon, ask them to “teach me what you know in an afternoon” so I can do brain surgery on everyone in my organization tomorrow afternoon?”

My observation and concern is that business and government aren’t sincerely willing to participate in the process of the artist – there isn’t enough willingness to get their hands dirty in the act of artfulness for the length of time that it takes.

AND…they usually aren’t willing to pay the artist for it, either.

Heck! I will be learning how to be an artist for the rest of my life and I’ve already been at it since I was born. I don’t know if I’ll ever live up to the title. It’s far too frightening for most folks, there is so much to learn and experience. It’s not like learning how to write a formula in a budget spreadsheet, or how to manage a bottom line to appease stockholders or to put bums in seats at a university or a high-priced management training facility.

This is a big problem in our society and one that keeps me up at night. Politicians won’t even talk about it with any serious understanding of the matter, reasoning and issues around funding the arts & education.

You don’t have to go far to find this. Here’s a great local example:

Recently, with an election campaign in progress, I tweeted Blake Richards, the PC incumbent in our ridiculously Conservative riding of Wild Rose (Alberta). He had tweeted out how proud he was that the PC party spent money on advertising to appear in the ads for the Conservative party.


This guy already spent $ on advertising within hours of an election announcement and then played politics, tried to deflect the constituent concern and then whines that it was someone else’s fault. Really? You didn’t see that one coming? (FYI – the Conservatives were ousted on a non-confidence vote)…and this guy apparently couldn’t figure out on a reply to his tweet what money pot I was talking about? Genius. Proves the need right there for critical thinking improvement, doesn’t it?

Of course, this is also the guy that a couple of weeks ago also tweeted that he repeatedly couldn’t find his truck in the parking lot:

(I do admit my new hobby might just be poking fun at election time, and it is an awful lot of easy, isn’t it?)

I think politicians should work for minimum wage, don’t you agree?

So….back to the much more important and critical issue of creativity and learning.

The only sure-fire solution that I can come up with is seated in our family and what I can do with my own children and those whose lives I directly affect by my art process every day. I’m always looking for ways and means to implement a critical arts-thought process in our home.

I’ll share some of those strategies on the next post in this series….after I go help Blake find his rental car….or his truck….or his money….or a job…

8 Cool Ways You Can Stretch Your Family Creativity Muscles

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