Day after day, you perform your quotidian tasks mindlessly, without reason or inquiry.
While you walk the same paths to get to that same place to see the same people to learn the same things, you continually daydream about more exciting times and places. As you daydream and contemplate the existential questions floating in your head, the uncomfortable empty space between your ribs expands. You hopelessly search for a way to fill this void, while a solution to this hopelessness and monotony has existed all along. This solution is creative engagement.
Reflect on the role art played in your childhood. You colored, painted, and crafted for the sheer joy of it. You approached the day with wonder in your eyes. The world was your playground. The unfortunate truth is that society and school has since attempted, and most likely succeeded, to milk you dry of your creativity. Most of us lead lives involving minimal creativity. Starting in middle school, art is entirely separate from the “essential” classes, like math, science, languages, and English. Because art is not prioritized by the education system, many students view art as useless and don’t take any classes. Many students also believe they are inherently unartistic, and therefore do not take classes. The most common perception of art is what is displayed in museums, and consequently, art is seen as unachievable for the normal person— destined for the few that are born with artistic talent. On the other hand, individuals who are talented and enjoy art are steered away from pursing it because of the notion of the “starving artist”. For these reasons, most people avoid art both in and out of school.
We fail to recognize the variety of art forms that exist, and how many of these forms are achievable to the everyday person. We don’t recognize that art has the potential to fulfill us, to assist us academically, to give us new perspectives, to de-stress us, and to assist us in future careers. We are not cognizant of the impact the implementation of creativity can have on every aspect of our daily lives. All of us can get so much out of art, and for this reason, we must reclaim the creativity we once had as children. Now is the time to do it. As college students, we are exploring and diving into different subjects, living on our own for the first time, and preparing to enter a career; art and creativity can assist us along this journey.
The first benefit when integrating creativity into your life is the academic advantage. Using art processes develops specific skills sets that can assist you in education. Art educator, Beth Dickson, highlights the skills you can achieve through art, including “problem identification, solution design, implementation and experimentation, and processes of reflection in order to achieve their outcomes” (71). Personally, creative engagement has given me skill sets that I couldn’t acquire by any other method. I allow myself to experiment and think in more abstract ways which results in more original creations in essays and projects. Thinking out of the box makes problem solving an easier task. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner, so integrating art into my studying facilitates my understanding of ideas learned in class.
Creativity is also a sought after ability in most careers. The aforementioned skills can be carried into one’s career. Employers seek out people who can apply these skills, because “‘creativity’ is synonymous with the innovation necessary for economic growth” (Dickson 57). If a company wants to grow, they must have people that can think creatively and develop new, never before seen ideas. Without creative employees, companies would keep producing the same things, over and over. Creative and innovative minds help the companies to grow. Through nurturing your creativity and obtaining these skills, you will be at an advantage and therefore be sought after by employers.
In addition to benefiting your in education and career, art can help to facilitate your happiness and well being. Releasing repressed emotions through art works to calm and distress your body and mind. Making art allows you to be fully present in the moment, keeping your mind active and awake, and making you more mindful. Art enlightens you with new perspectives on life. Art intensifies our feelings, thoughts, ideas and imagination. Art causes us to admire our everyday life. Art provokes conversation, brings communities together and encourages solidarity. Art preserves history while encouraging change (Howard 2).
Art and creativity contribute countless benefits to your life, and—in the long run—will allow you to lead a happier, more fulfilling life. Don’t have the time or money to take an art class? There are small changes you can apply to your life that can make a large impact, without costing you extra money, stress or time.
First, you must realize you are an artist. Relocate the inner artist that was present when you were a child. You colored because it was an enjoyable activity, not because you were good at it or had the intention of putting your coloring page in a museum. People avoid making art because of the fear of judgement and the fear of their art “not being good enough.” They believe that the function of the artist is to produce likable and wanted art. They believe that the artist is few and far between, as they must be someone with talent and training. This notion is dangerous because art is fundamental for any and every human. Many don’t realize that everyone can, and should, be an artist. Art, in any form, creates an emotional outlet. Art assists you in expressing and releasing emotions when traditional conversation can’t. If you make art, you are an artist— regardless of the quality of the product.
Many believe the notion of “everyone is an artist” makes art less valuable. In an interview, artist Joesph Beuys was asked, “A well-known saying of yours asserts that ‘Every man is an artist.’ If every man is an artist, then why have art academies and art professors at all?” To which Beuys answered, “To be sure, ‘every man is an artist’ in a general sense: one must be an artist for example, to create self-determination. But at a certain stage in his life every man becomes a specialist in a certain way; one studies chemistry, another sculpture or painting, a third becomes doctor, and so on. For this reason we understandably need special schools” (255). Beuys understands that humans are creative beings by nature, and therefore can engage creatively in some capacity, but not necessarily to the capacity of art becoming one’s entire life. Art can be a part of your life, without it being your whole life. You can create art without aesthetic value and without the intention of producing it. Nevertheless, you are still an artist because you are creating art.
Make art. Figure out what works for you. There are so many different forms of art to explore that can allow express yourself in ways that stand out from then the monotony of everyday life. When creating art, focus on the process rather than the product. The actual process of creating art is often ignored. Professor Ellen Langer further explains, “Unfortunately, our culture leads us to evaluate almost everything we do…We look at the end product and pass judgment on whether is it ‘creative’ or not without regard for whether a mindfully engaged individual created it. We distinguish the product from the experience of creating it” (5). As a result of society focusing on the final product, people do not make art for the fear of judgement. The artist’s personal experience in creating the art is what where the importance should be focused, because the process is what provides the artist with personal benefits. The process is cathartic, enjoyable, makes us more creative, and allows us to be fully present and mindful.
Be mindful. Realize that you already use creative processes everyday. Take notice when you are in situations that require creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Find ways you can you expand on these situations and use creative processes more often. Be mindful of your everyday surroundings. We get so caught up in the monotony of our daily schedules that our surroundings become boring. We become blind to what is going on around us. If you look at everyday things with a creative, fresh perspective, life will become more intriguing and exciting. As Joseph Beuys once said, “Even the act of peeling a potato can be an artistic act if it is consciously done.”
Adriani, Götz, Winfried Konnertz, and Karin Thomas. Joseph Beuys, Life and Works.
Woodbury, N.Y: Barron’s, 1979. Print.
Cannatella, Howard. Why We Need Arts Education : Revealing the Common Good: Making
Theory and Practice Work Better. Sense Publishers, 2015. EBSCOhost, goucher.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1057255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Dickson, Beth. Education and the Arts. Dunedin Academic Press
Limited, 2011. Policy and Practice in Education. EBSCOhost, goucher.idm.oclc.org/ login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspxdirect=true&db=nlebk&AN=380339&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Langer, Ellen J. On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself through Mindful Creativity. Ballantine Books, 2006.