Art Meets Doctor

Image by Adrian Clark*

Wynn Perry authored a terrific article for Live Science about first-year students at Yale Medical School, whose training includes a visit to the Yale Center for British Art. Exploring art, it turns out, sharpens one’s observational skills—and we all want a very, very observant doctor.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Creativity in the UK

Image by Lee Fenner*

A recent article in British newspaper The Guardian by Nosheen Iqbal quotes Sir Ken Robinson as saying, “Creativity is not an exotic extra for education. Like literacy, it should be at the heart of national education priorities.” Robinson’s influential 1999 report, “All Our Futures,” led Arts Council England (ACE) to form Creative Partnerships, an arts education program to integrate “creative learning” into schools by having “creative agents”—artists of all kinds—work with teachers across subjects. The September 14 Guardian article deals with the fact that Creativity, Culture, and Education (CCE), the charity that now runs Creative Partnerships, expects deep cuts in the annual funding it receives from ACE. The bittersweet irony of this arises from the extremely positive findings of a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which estimates that for every £1 invested in Creative Partnerships, the program delivers £15.30 to England’s national economy; this adds up to £4 billion! (The calculation was derived from data showing that students in Creative Partnership schools score, on average, 2.5 grades higher than their peers on standardized tests.) Despite such impressive figures, which align with LCI’s belief in the broad efficacy of imaginative teaching and learning, proponents of this approach to education still face challenges in convincing others of its effectiveness. Iqbal writes, “Alison Peacock, head of Wroxham primary school … agrees that applying creativity in education can’t be a woolly or vague notion but must be rigorous.” Eric Liu and I think so, too: we argue in Imagination First that institutions must “routinize imagination” (203). It sounds like Creative Partnerships is doing just that in UK schools.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation Find a Home in Louisiana

Image by Woodley Wonderworks

On July 9, I wrote about the Imagination, Creativity and Innovation (ICI) Summer Institute, a professional development event for Louisiana teachers that took place in June and was hosted by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development/Division of the Arts. The state has now announced, to my delight, that it will pilot its ICI Initiative—“developed to nurture creativity and advance 21st-century skills in every learner through an arts-integrated education”—in eight schools, starting this 2010-2011 school year. This initiative was born as a response to “Act 175,” a bill the Louisiana Legislature passed in 2007 to create a mandate for arts education. The press release announcing the new pilot program cites the positive outcomes in other states that have integrated the arts into classrooms: “increased student achievement, increased attendance by students and staff, increased rates of retention, improved school climate, greater parent participation, and building a sense of community around the school.” Indeed, Lincoln Center Institute has seen many studies that confirm these claims (including The Center for Arts Education’s “Staying in School,” which focuses on New York City high schools and which I blogged about back in November 2009). Another exciting aspect of Louisiana’s plan is that students will encounter new artistic disciplines each year, all of which will be incorporated into their language arts curriculum. Finally, in keeping with LCI’s belief in a balance between imaginative learning and accountability, “outcomes” will be “linked to state and national standards.” I can’t wait to see what happens here!

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Arts in Education Week


Image by Nancy Bareis

Did you know that the week of September 12-18, 2010, is Arts in Education Week across the country? The U.S. House of Representatives designated it as such on July 26, 2010, by passing H.Con.Res. 275, which was authored by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and supported by veteran actress Carol Channing. Here are a few brief excerpts from the resolution that affirm some of the tenets of Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophy of imaginative teaching and learning through guided study of artworks:

“arts education … is … an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students”;

“arts education enables students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, imagination and creativity”;

“as the Nation works to strengthen its foothold in the 21st century global economy, the arts equip students with a creative, competitive edge.”

How exciting it is to see Congress getting behind these ideas! But, you may ask, how does one go about celebrating Arts in Education Week? The nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts offers some helpful suggestions on their Web site. One can: invite elected officials to visit classrooms in which the arts are integrated, plan an event in appreciation of the arts in education, spread the word on social networking sites, submit a letter to a local newspaper, ask elected officials to declare Arts in Education Week in one’s city or state—the list goes on. One can also participate from September 13-17 in a blog salon here. In addition to being thrilled by the federal government’s tribute to the field in which LCI works, I’m also glad to see further recognition (in H.Con.Res. 275) of the critical connection between the arts, education, imagination, and 21st-century economic success.

Full STEM Ahead in Rochester


Image by Vestman*

On March 4, I wrote about the connection between the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and the arts. Guided encounters with works of art and study of them based on the Capacities for Imaginative Learning help develop students’ imaginative and creative thinking skills—skills that supplement STEM knowledge in crucial ways. But let’s not try to change STEM into STEAM by simply adding the arts to the mix. It will not work. What will is to utilize the learning and thinking skills developed through the capacities within STEM education, so that the arts + STEM may be STEM with an “attitude.” It’s quite gratifying for me to see this concept very publicly embodied by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. Continue reading

Not on the Test


Singer-songwriter Tom Chapin, who grew up in the NYC public schools, worries about the potential long-term consequences for students in cases where testing requirements drive school curriculum.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Chapin reminds us of the importance of a well-rounded curriculum—including the arts—in educating students for a future that is sure to value imagination and creativity as critical capacities.


Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part Three


Image by muellermartin*

Coming of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I occasionally got the impression that certain members of the anti-establishment community thought that they were the first people ever to protest a government, and that their methods were utterly unique and had no historical precedent. In retrospect, I think some of the radical movements of the time might have met with greater success had they been more conscious of the continua of which they were a part. When you’re deeply involved with a set of ideas, it’s important to know not only where you stand, but also who came before you and who else is doing what you’re doing. I’m speaking to myself and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute now, and to all educators who support our work. What can we do better? Continue reading

Sparking the Imagination


“LCI’s mandate to empower classroom teachers calls to mind the safety instructions you often hear on an airplane: Put on your own oxygen mask before you help the child sitting next to you. In other words, a teacher has to first engage her own imagination before she can help her students tap into theirs.”

Dance journalist Michelle Vellucci has written a nuanced Dance Teacher Magazine article describing Lincoln Center Institute’s approach to imaginative teaching and learning, by way of describing educators’ experiences during a 2009 summer professional development workshop focused on the digital work of art Ghostcatching (a collaboration by choreographer Bill T. Jones and digital artists Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser). In addition to providing a window on the learning process of course participants, Vellucci provides an introduction to the Institute’s philosophical grounding and interviews a classroom teacher about his and his fifth-grade students’ explorations of Ghostcatching during a successful unit the previous school year.

Read Vellucci’s full article.

Learn more about LCI’s summer professional development workshops.

Ghostcatching image: choreographed and performed by Bill T. Jones digital artistry by Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser

Classroom image: Nancy Bareis


Imagination Goes Global


*Image by Germán Meyer

Much of my work on imagination—Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations and the book Imagination First, for instance—focuses on the United States. As I’ve said many times before, I want to see an imaginative shift in American education, one that will foster a national workforce of creative problem solvers and bold thinkers. But we advocates in the U.S. need to be aware of initiatives taking place in the rest of the world, too; after all, imagination is a human capacity, not merely an American one. So it’s with great interest and pleasure that I bring to your attention some recent developments in Malaysia.

In the Malaysian newspaper The Star, Priya Kulasagaran reports that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has launched “Malaysia Innovative 2010,” calling 2010 “the Year of Creativity and Innovation.” Najib, like me, believes that this new emphasis is necessary if a country is to be economically competitive. But Kulasagaran also quotes an educator who, while agreeing that developed right brains are essential for success in the 21st-century marketplace, points out that “[c]reativity should not be seen as … a commodity, but a lifelong process of trial and error.” Eric Liu and I make the same argument in our book, Imagination First: far more important than innovative products and services is the development of a community of imaginative thinkers, an “ecosystem of possibility” (174). The article soon transitions into a discussion of the classroom. Continue reading

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part One


Image by Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879)*

As regular readers of this blog know, most of my entries have to do with things going on in the world—with people in various sectors whose careers and actions embody imaginative practice. But it seems appropriate now and then to retreat from the hustle and bustle, exciting as it is, in order to reflect on some of the major issues facing imagination advocates like me and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute. One matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the educational discussion centering on the STEM fields.

“STEM,” for those who don’t know, refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the fields arguably responsible for the most impactful advances in society. In recent years, the United States government has demonstrated its desire to promote STEM education in public schools and in colleges and universities. This makes plenty of sense; as the STEM Education Coalition explains on its Web site, these fields play a “critical role … in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.” Yet, with all of the enthusiasm for STEM, arts-in-education proponents sometimes wonder, “Well, where do we fit into this picture?” Continue reading