What is creativity and who determines whether you have it or not? Your first grade art teacher? Your high school creative writing teacher? The audience? You? Left to their own devices most people do not admit to being creative. As if it’s a curse. “Oh no, I’m not creative at all!” Even highly acclaimed artists don’t typically walk around saying, “look at me, I’m so creative!” I believe creativity is the spark of imagination and those people who are considered creative or who might call themselves artists have simply taken that spark of imagination to the place where it meets action. Everyone has the possibility but only some will dare to ignite the spark.
In today’s world, creativity is more important to foster than ever. Regardless of your politics, career path, or belief system, we all recognize that the near future is one driven by more automation, robotics, outsourced work, and technology of all aspects encroaching on our every day lives. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for technological advances and in fact those that invent these technologies are highly creative, but their creativity generally bends towards innovating efficiencies for more productivity in business and bottom lines (and yes, thankfully, sometimes for quality of life too). But what does this mean for humans? What do we do if we want our lives to be productive and meaningful? Are there fields that cannot or should not be automated?
Throughout history it has, and I suspect will continue to be, the creatives that lead the way. These creatives (a.k.a. artists, visionaries, risk-takers, dreamers, inventors, innovators) serve two critical purposes in society. First, they have the ability to create something new, to look beyond the present moment to the edge ahead and design for the unknown futures. That can be for anything from tangible products to literary geniuses that are ahead of their time. Second, we look to the artists among us to help make sense and meaning of our experiences both for the individual and for the collective whole. Reflection and meaning making are part of what makes us unique as a species.
We find ourselves now, again, at the age-old crossroads where funding is being cut for education in the arts, jobs in the arts are scarce, and our society continues to debate the validity of the field. As a young dancer beginning my professional career nearly 25 years ago I was constantly asked what I was going to do for a “real” job and recently I met a group of young dancers who rolled their eyes while telling me the exact same story. Writing this article here I realize I might be preaching to the choir since if you’re reading this it means you're interested in the arts (glorious!) but we will need you, me, all of us to continue to raise our voices in support of the arts as purposeful, valuable and critical to the growth of human beings. It comes down to deciding which path each of us will choose individually that will determine the direction of the collective society. Will we continue to shun or shrink from the word creative or will we embrace it as the spark of imagination that bridges logic, reason, purpose, passion and possibilities? Will we ourselves become robots or will we hold onto the breadth and depth that makes us human and be willing to say, yes I am creative and I believe in the power of creativity?!