Creativity, leadership, wellbeing

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on June 5, 2011

Catherine Czerkawska‘s provocative piece in the Scottish Review highlights the increasing distance between the experiences of being a painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, maker, writer, poet, playwright, actor, musician, composer, dancer, choreographer, storyteller, and the languages used to articulate the value of creativity.

Even the listing of all the things that might be done in being an artist helps to question the narrative of artist = creativity = wellbeing.  She highlights the important gaps between the reality of being an artist, and the language of creativity, between the act of making art and the process of being creative.  The latter, the process of being creative, is currently being developed and defined, having been identified as an important aspect of economic success (Cox Review of Creativity in Business, 2005).

But what is interesting is that 15 years ago some people in the arts were arguing to be taken more seriously, not just by the cultural elite, but as as a relevant part of everyday life for all.  Perhaps unfortunately the argument has been made successfully, the value of creativity has been acknowledged and some characteristics have been attached to it: “Questioning, innovating, problem-solving and reflecting critically”.  Teamwork and leadership have been added to the mix (and I worked on the research project The Artist as Leader, which re-focused the discussion on the role of the artist and their ability to develop critical positions).

When Joseph Beuys declared in 1975 “Jeder mensch ein kunstler” or “everyone an artist” did he mean everyone can make works of art or that everyone could be creative?

Czerkawska, although she does not push the distinction between artist and creative person, does characterise the artist as a person involved in an emotional journey,  “It can involve extremes of depression and elation, can be at once fulfilling and frustrating, energising and exhausting. Perhaps most problematic of all, from the point of view of potential employers, a significant percentage of creative people are not, in any sense, ‘joiners’.”

If the ambition for the arts to have a wider role in society is still on the table, then perhaps its time for artists to challenge the values that are being ascribed to creativity, to articulate, as Czerkawska does, some of the realities of creating art, and to help sharpen the distinction between creating art and being creative, rather than eliding this distinction in the process of attempting to secure greater economic relevance and power.

One Response

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  1. Catherine Czerkawska said, on June 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Excellent and thoughtful piece, Chris. You’re right – we don’t seem to distinguish between creating art and being creative – instead all are lumped together and creativity defined as some means to a desirable economic end. Perhaps it’s up to artists and writers to take the initiative here but I’m not sure that they will!

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