There has been quite a bit of discussion about this topic lately, given the cuts to post-secondary institutions in Alberta and the promotion of specialized education in the “professions” (medicine, law, business, engineering) that has seemed to take precedence in the rhetoric of governments in the name of being “competitive” in the global marketplace, as well as ensuring that our young people have what is believed to be the right “skill set” for today’s workplace. While a “professional degree” is undoubtedly a valid and rewarding choice, it may not be for everyone. Mercifully, there are some clear arguments for a well-rounded, liberal arts education that are becoming more prominent, and I’ve recently come across two of the more thorough and articulate.
The first is a Ted talk from 2009 by Liz Coleman, then the President of Bennington College, a small liberal arts college in the U.S. I highly recommend this. It spells out the need for study in the liberal arts so clearly it’s impossible not to recognize their importance.
Here’s an example of someone who’s in the business world, but who also really understands the role the arts play in our society. Todd Hirsch revisits the economic arguments for the arts and makes them immediate and relevant, while also tying their value to the other, non-economic-yet-extremely-important aspects of our lives.
A side note here is that the statistics Mr. Hirsch refers to in his post are likely to be only the tip of the proverbial artistic iceberg in Alberta, as they only reference organizations funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts – the firmest province-wide statistics available at the moment. There are many arts organizations who aren’t funded by the AFA, as well as individual artists (funded and not funded by AFA programs) who contribute economically as well.
We need more people like Todd Hirsch to lend their voices to his.
I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Alberta Venture magazine this week on stimulating innovation and creativity in the workplace. The article point out some truths about the conditions required for the creativity that stimulates innovation: the absence of fear, and the presence of humour. Both of these lead to inspiring the courage to fail – something I know I need to work on…a lot…
It was good food for thought and dovetailed with something I’d watched and read about earlier in the year: John Cleese’s thoughts on stimulating creativity and the 5 things that are needed to do that:
Space (an “oasis” for creativity)
Time (Cleese feels you need about 90 minutes, so that there’s time for any distractions to disappear and for what he terms “open” mode to occur)
Time (to ponder ideas and question them)
Confidence (which in my mind can also be thought of as the courage to fail – nothing is a mistake when you are in “open” mode)
Humor (as in, allow it – in fact, go for it)
You can find his talk here. It’s worth the time. There are also excerpts on YouTube, but I recommend the whole thing.
…and then there was the coolest example of creativity I saw this week: The Beer Mitt, in the Deep Fall issue of Knitty magazine. I can see many of these in my knitting future. They would make outstanding gifts.
Finally, in support of creativity and the arts, the #yegvotesarts campaign is heating up. Get your button by emailing admin AT pacedmonton DOT com, follow the campaign on twitter, facebook or tumblr, and see which candidates support creativity and the arts in the upcoming Edmonton municipal election. There are also questions you can ask candidates in your ward – wherever you are in the province of Alberta, which has municipal elections throughout this year – or at public all-candidates forum or even on your doorstep.
If you live in Edmonton, Alberta, you know there’s a municipal election in October. If the Arts matter to you, you’ll want to follow the #yegvotesarts campaign, an initiative of the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton (PACE). This non-partisan campaign is following all the candidates for Mayor, Councillors and School Board trustees, asking them what their vision for the Arts in the lives of Edmontonians will be if they were elected.
Check out answers to the candidate survey on the arts via PACE’s website, facebook page, twitter feed, and on tumblr. There’s even a great button – see above – that you can find at various locations around town, such as the Fringe and Alberta Ballet’s office!
Some of the candidates have even endorsed or highlighted the campaign. Don Iveson, a mayoral candidate has been seen wearing the #yegvotesarts button, Ward 7 candidate Mimi Williams has given it a “thumbs up” on her campaign facebook page, and Ward 3 candidate David Dodge has endorsed the campaign as well.
The Arts are a vital part of community vitality and resiliency and play an important role in making Edmonton a great place to live, work and play. Get involved or show your support by following the campaign using the hashtag #yegvotesarts.