Have you thought about the role environment plays in creativity?
I hadn’t either until recently. But according to the social psychologists, there are plenty of reasons to consider environments, and that’s in the plural because scientists are usually not content with a single definition.
There’s your personal environment, the space where you create. You might think that any space will do but not so; creativity can flourish with stimuli, or get killed by distractions. For me, this is easily translated to mean that if my studio is comfortable, brightly lit with plenty of space, no room for clutter and stepping over the dogs and having to move ten canvases just to get to the one that I want, then it’s pretty supportive of my creativity.
Since creativity is also about problem solving that not only stretches traditional rules but might even break one or two, your environment should be able to support all this risk-taking. Which means that my space will not necessarily be shared with critics who come stomping down the hall and stand in the doorway with demanding looks on their faces and tails wagging because it is time for the afternoon walk. It means there will be lots of book shelves for the reference library containing all the rules I intend to break, and at one time one of those table top fountains which I eventually got rid of because it was so annoying.
But environment extends well beyond personal space. There is the social environment made up of other artists, critics, and the general public. This environment can exert a powerful force for conformity without a hint of originality. It is one we cannot control; we can control our reaction to it, but most of the time we are not aware we are reacting to conformity but to what we perceive as popular taste. Give up that spark of inspiration and stay with something safe. Don’t rock the boat, or the easel, or the pottery kiln.
There is even a macro environment, made up of the political influences prevalent in a society. During periods of political unrest, wars and severe social uncertainty the creativity manifested in the affected population goes down. The opposite is true, that in times of peace, calm and security, the creativity within the population goes up. Many cultures have experienced a flourishing age of creativity after freeing themselves from an oppressive regime, ancient Greece being one example. Not to mention the creative decline during the Dark Ages as a result of centuries of famine, struggle, invasions, turmoil and distress.
This is not all doom and gloom, though, for creativity can flourish between creative individuals who form connections and challenge the status quo. That’s the beauty in creativity, that originality begins to stretch the walls surrounding it and over time what was once considered outrageous is now the new convention. Does this mean that some artists will eventually give up if their various environments are out of sync? Maybe. But now you know enough about environments in the plural so maybe you won’t be one of them.
With that in mind, I'm passing along this article from Tim Handorf, over at the BestCollegesOnline.com blog, titled 20 Amazing TED Talks for Art Majors These are TED talks from world renowned artists, museum curators, philosophers, and they all look pretty fantastic. I love TED talks but don't always have time to research the ones that might interest me, so I appreciated receiving the link in my inbox this morning. Thanks, Tim. The talks are definately on my recommended "listening" list.