Creating Together in a Post-Coronavirus World

We’re still right in the thick of this mess, the Coronavirus pandemic, and with no signs of it letting up. In fact, it’s just the opposite; more cases are reported daily, around the globe. Just about a week ago a little less than 200,000 people globally had been infected while over 7,500 people have died.

In order to try and stop the spread of the virus, the globe’s inhabitants are retreating inward, at least most of them. “Stay home, stay healthy” seems to be the motto of the day. If ET were to re-visit Earth right now, he’s probably wonder, “Where did everybody go?”

Businesses are shutting down and boarding up, as if they’re dealing with some big storm surge. Eating places are delivery or take-out only, if they’re even open. Schools are closing until further notice and most modes of transportation have ground to a halt or have severely curtailed their routes. Grocery stores have become almost barren, especially the paper goods and beverage aisles.

Most everyone is self-quarantining. Very few people are on the roads unless they just have to be.

Yet, the virus persists and is spreading. Damn!

TogetherWeCreate

Image source: Unsplash.

Writing from Johannesburg, South Africa, Rohan Reddy says, “Our hands have never been cleaner, human contact is being frowned upon, people are getting sick or dying. We don’t care much about advertising or design anymore; mortality is our reality, we care about surviving.

The executive creative director for the McCann Africa network continues, “When 2020 comes to an end, the world we live in will probably look very different from the one we said goodbye to in 2019. And it is impossible to predict what this new world will look like.”

I agree with him. The world is in uncharted waters with this virus. We’re doing good to react, let alone react in some timely manner. Forget about planning and acting on the plan. This stage is in its infancy, though it is forging ahead.

making more masks

Some corners of the world are doing better than others; Italy seems to have their act together while the U.S. is falling behind and will be doing good to “fight a good fight.”

Reddy again, “Creativity will save the world. People will look to our poets, our artists, our musicians, our dancers, our inventors, our architects, our engineers, our writers and designers to redefine humanity’s purpose post-Covid-19. Businesses will look to their advertising agencies and design studios to redefine how we consume everything from food to fashion to travel.

“Because, at the end of 2020, it will not be business as usual. It will be something completely different. We will spend our money differently, we will save our money differently and we will probably make our money differently too.”

buildingnewhospitalinWuhan

We won’t have to wait until the end of this year for business and living habits to become different. That is happening right now. Our lifestyles and business practices are changing, out of necessity, right before our eyes. We will be “ever-adapting” continuously through the rest of this year and into the near future.

Creativity will play a vital role in how we think, solve problems and present solutions. Creativity won’t be the exclusive territory of advertising. Hopefully, creative thinking and development will be in hyper-drive so that society can be the benefactor.

I think most intelligent people will adopt a much more sincere form of togetherness, a true multi-partisanship. We, as a society, really have no choice. We have to create through togetherness since our survival depends on it.

Past actions of stupidity and greed will be looked upon incredulously. There will be no room for them in our future. Disease, like this COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate when it comes to these fallacies; it also doesn’t play politics.

italy on lockdown

No matter how long it takes to save ourselves from this pandemic, creativity will and must play a part. That’s creativity in all forms, not just in the creative arts.

Together we need to rebuild into a better, much more aware future. The creative minds among us have a responsibility to craft a sound and viable and livable future for our society.

I agree with Mr. Reddy. As a creative, I can’t do this on my own. I can, however, do it together in forming a creative front to help lead us in progressing forward. We owe it to ourselves, our children, their children, as well as the planet.

Let us create together!

Map Locations of Creative Class Growth Meet Up with “Rise of the Rest.” (Part 2)

Let’s face it: Economic growth is boring, though important. The better it is, the more resilient a community becomes. Out of this comes the culture and cultivation of the Creative Class. Houston may be the 4th largest city in the country but its creative class designation is, while on the upswing, crawling.

In this Part 2 blog post, I share some of the findings of Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and his colleagues. Houston, despite all its size and culture, remains a lukewarm bed of creativity, especially when compared to New York, LA, and even Chicago. Most of that is due to the client base in Houston; much more B2B than B2C. More oil-n-gas than cornflakes; more energy than autos.

Based on Florida’s research and his colleagues’ input, they found that one of the most troubling trends of the past decade is the deepening geographic inequality across the U.S., especially through the clustering of particular types of talent in coastal cities like San Francisco and New York.

But a growing chorus of economists and urbanists suggest that we may be seeing the “rise of the rest,” a result of both increasingly unaffordable housing in established hubs and the improvement of the economies in less-established hubs.

While startups and tech employment remain highly clustered, recent reports suggest that some Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros are increasing their ability to attract college graduates.

Cincinnati Riverside

Cincinnati saw nearly 20 percent growth in its share of the creative class from 2005 to 2017. Aaron Bernstein/Reuters

Investigating what is actually happening to the geography of talent, Florida concentrated on changes in the location of the creative class for a period immediately before, during, and post-recession. While most studies equate talent with the share of adults who hold college degrees, his creative class metric is based on occupation.

About nine in 10 Americans with a college degree are members of the creative class, which is made up of knowledge workers in education, healthcare, law, arts, tech, science, and business. But, only six in 10 members of the creative class hold a college degree.

CreativeClass 2005

In 2005, the top ten list read like a veritable who’s who of the nation’s leading knowledge and tech hubs, led by Washington D.C., San Jose, and San Francisco. But Baltimore (with a large cluster of medical and scientific research centers around Johns Hopkins University) and Minneapolis-St. Paul also make the top-10 list, besting bigger metros like New York and Los Angeles.

In 2017, the creative class makes up more than half the workforce in the leading metros, and there are substantial changes in the rankings. San Jose tops the list, followed by D.C. and San Francisco, and now Denver and Philadelphia have joined the top ten.

CreativeClass2017

The map below shows the percentage growth in the creative class from 2005 to 2017. A number of Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros which have previously lagged now show robust growth. Salt Lake City posted the fastest growth, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati next in line. Las Vegas, which had the smallest creative class share of large metros in 2005, also saw significant growth.

Of leading creative class metros, only Seattle and Baltimore registered comparable gains. On the flip side, superstar hubs New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., all ranked among the ten metros with the slowest creative class growth.

CreativeClassGrowth

The even better news is that the creative class—which often garners the highest paying jobs—appears to be growing as a percentage of total workforce employment across the board.

This next chart shows Houston coming in at 32nd out of 53 metro areas, between St. Louis and Pittsburgh for the 2005-2017 time span. Houston’s Creative Class growth rate approximates 37% over the 12-year span.

Growth:Change 2005:2017

According to Florida and his research associates, the creative class has seen remarkable growth over this time frame, increasing from 44 million members in 2005 to more than 56 million in 2017, as virtually all large U.S. metros saw growth. The rate of creative class growth (27.2 percent) was more than double the growth rate of overall U.S. workforce (13.6 percent) over this period.

Florida believes we may well be seeing the beginnings of a tipping point in the geography of talent as housing prices continue to rise in superstar cities, while metros in once talent-lagging parts of the country capitalize on the significant cost advantages and quality of life they have to offer.

Houston Skyline Glow

Houston Skyline Sunrise Glow Panorama – Color Texas Canvas Print is a photograph by Bee Creek Photography – Tod and Cynthia.

In Houston, as in other comparably sized metro areas, technology and shared work spaces are in the forefront of change and innovation. The medical community, at least in Houston, is striving as never before to consistently research and provide for better and faster disease fighters. Economic and infrastructure expansion in the Texas Medical Center continues to roll along. This progress goes hand-n-hand with expansion of the Creative Class.

But we can’t let up. Just as important as innovative medicine development is, so, too, is the expansion and underwriting of the arts, culture and creativity in its purest form.

 

So, let me know your thoughts, questions or comments. I’d really like to hear from you.

 

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management.

Meow Wolf’s Art World Raises Millions Highlighting Creative Economy’s Potential. Houston, take note! (Part 1)

Meow who? Wolf, Meow Wolf. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group that is attracting audiences of all ages in its immersive art world.

Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!

Meow Wolf creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration. This includes art installations, video and music production, and extended reality content.

 

Their first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, (HOER) launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin. Inside, guests discover a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amidst surreal, maximalist, and mesmerizing art exhibits. Located in Santa Fe, HOER features a children’s learning center, a cafe and bar, and a music venue.

ImpactAlpha called this choose-your-own adventure, art installation, “one of the most successful examples of the creative economy.”

Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world. Houston, are you listening?

Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return

Legally registered as a public benefit corporation and certified as a Benefit Corporation, or B Corp, Meow Wolf values investing in their creative team, giving back to their community, and doing their part to better the environment.

Through ticket, gift shop, food and beverage sales, and events, Meow Wolf is pulling in more than $1 million a month in revenues. George R. Martin, author of the novels adapted for HBO’s Game of Thrones series, is Meow Wolf’s landlord in Santa Fe. He’s also an investor and creative advisor to the firm.

This company, according to ImpactAlpha, emphasizes the potential of the creative economy. “This does not mean impact capital is not flowing to the creative economy—it is just not doing so on purpose,” Laura Callanan of Upstart CoLab told ImpactAlpha.

Meow Wolf firmly believes that accomplished artists must be compensated on an equal level with other skilled, in-demand professionals. Successful businesses must give back to — and participate energetically in — their communities.

Wolf provides financial assistance, expertise, and other forms of active support, and is excited to support innovative, community-focused art and social projects.

Meow Wolf’s path echoes what last year, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Callanan wrote: “When creative people pursue businesses that have a social purpose, they can have a catalytic impact on job creation, the economy, and social well-being.”

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Meow Wolf’s jaw-dropping 10 year journey of an anarchic art collective has grown into a multi-million dollar business. According to their web site, Wolf grew from having no access to blowing a new, profitable portal into the art world.

This tumultuous journey has yielded new ways of participating in culture and entertainment for not only these artists, but for the people from all walks of life who engage in and are inspired by their work. With a mission to provide access to and inspire creativity in everyone, Meow Wolf continues to experience growing pains, while continuing to reach for new impossibles.

Does Houston have anything like this? While Houston is considerably larger than Santa Fe, the expansive geography lends itself to challenges for cultivating a strong and viable creative economy. Sure there are the museums, NASA, Space Center Houston as well as several start-ups in and around the Texas Medical Center serving as a harbinger of creativity and innovation.

Houston logo

But is that enough? One might argue that it is not.

Houston doesn’t seem to have a “meow wolf” instigator-like venue or organization to stimulate its own creative economy. Not that the city hasn’t tried. The Houston Arts Alliance, Greater Houston Partnership, Only in Houston/OiH Creatives, American Advertising Federation Houston are but a few of select organizations who have tried, and are still doing so, to pull together what it takes to stimulate the region’s creative economy.

As Meow Wolf would tell anyone or any city, this takes continuous effort and a belief that what one is doing is worth it for everyone. That remains a challenge for Houston, and one it must overcome.

 

 

Friday Fun Quotes: Advertising & Others

Continuing a series of various illustrious quotes, here are some worth-remembering “sayings” which I find interesting and inspiring. Hopefully, you will, too.

Some quotes are from the American Advertising Federation newsletter “Smart Brief,” while others come from various sources. Enjoy!!

Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted. – George Gallup

Innovation demands that you take risks, make mistakes, and fail.            – Keynote speaker Dr. Tony Wagner at #SASInstitute2018

My definition, then, of the creative process is that it is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other.Carl R. Rogers

I found that after meditating I would go down to my desk in my studio and sit there to write. And nothing would come. Everything was so peaceful, so harmonious; I was blissed out. And I had to realize through harsh experience that the secret of being a writer is to go to your desk with your mind full of chaos, full of formlessness—formlessness of the night before, formlessness which threatens you, changes you.Rollo May (making an identical observation about his creative process. He was also a visual artist and worked full-time as a writer before becoming a psychologist.)

We were created to be creative, and every day is a battle to turn that into more joy than frustration. – Lee Clow

Now that I have your attention, here are 94 characters making you regret that you gave it. Just like most advertising today. – Lee Clow

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. – Socrates

Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.  Virginia Woolf

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.  Isaac Asimov

It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.  Rod Serling

 

And the Easter Bunny Went Hop. . .Hop. . . Fart. . .Hop Along the Way!

Easter’s coming and with it the crunch of candy selling. Most will be customary and traditional, with some even being kinda cute. Yet, customary and traditional are not exactly what this blog is about. Innovation and creativity, with a tip ‘o the hat to weirdness, is more in line with what we like to showcase.

This year I’ve come across a bit of untraditional marketing, via a Business Insider article, utilizing Mr. Bunny and his, uh, hopping. Yet, kids should get a kick (hop?) out of the Bunny’s candy while parents should get a bit of a chuckle out of the Bunny’s offering.

Both would agree it’s a bit silly, but so what?

What am I talking about? Why it’s Bunny Farts, that’s what. What are Bunny Farts, you ask? Well . . .

Bunny Farts

According to the description for the fruit punch-flavored pink cotton candy, the Easter Bunny consumes a “magically unique diet of apples, carrots and candy […] known to produce farts that are sugary and delicious.” Sorry, but that just sort of makes me grimace a bit.

Little Stinker, the maker of Bunny Farts, also sells products like “Unicorn Farts,” “Dinosaur Farts,” and “Reindeer Farts.” The company pledges to donate 10% of profits from each product — including those purchased on Amazon — to a specific cause.

This type of marketing, though, makes me wonder. What if the company approached the Charles Schultz Foundation (you know, Peanuts) to see about a tie-in with you-know-who for a possible product named Beagle Burps? However, the connotation here suggests that  the famous feline Garfield might be better suited for the promotion. Just a thought.

“We are proud to have donated over $130,000 to various charities since we began three years ago,” Little Stinker Vice President Melanie Simpson. told INSIDER via email. “Our mission is Making the World a Sweeter Place, one bag at a time.”

Sales of the Bag of Bunny Farts along with sales of the Bag of Unicorn Farts have benefited children through donations to the Unicorn Children’s Foundation, The Next Step Academy, Ovarian Cancer Connection and KultureCity.

You can buy a package on Amazon for $8.95, or on Little Stinker’s online store for $9.95.

More information on this and other Easter related and interesting news can be found at Business Insider.

 

Dreams . . . Cancer . . . Nightmares . . . Sleeplessness . . . What of Insomnia?

Note: This week begins a celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Week, April 15-21. I thought it appropriate to highlight some intriguing, insightful and, hopefully, entertaining bits and pieces of creativity and innovation from around our globe.

My initial offering deals with Insomnia and how, for some people, it can be truly nightmarish. This post includes information and images from both a presentation on insomnia and select photos by a photographer who has severely suffered from insomnia.

In this excerpt from an issue of Adobe Create Magazine, the photog takes us into his bizarre world of striking, nightmarish illusions.

And his fight with insomnia.

Photographer Nicolas Bruno has suffered from sleep paralysis since he was seven years old. In Bruno’s case, when he enters REM sleep, his mind becomes conscious, or awake, but his body remains asleep. During these recurring episodes, he experiences shortness of breath or pressure on his chest and the feeling that he’s being choked or is going to be killed. Screaming shadow figures menace him in bed. He’s unable to move, and the state seems to last hours. Sometimes it stops because he awakens; other times he moves into another dream. All of it is out of his control.

And you thought you had nightmares!

BrunoSleepless-3

When Bruno was fifteen, he began experiencing sleep paralysis almost every night. To help process the resulting stress, he kept a dream journal and then turned to drawing and photography. At first, he photographed mostly landscapes and abandoned places. Over time, he started making work directly inspired by what he goes through during sleep paralysis.

“Transforming my experiences with sleep paralysis into artwork not only helps me understand the dreams,” Bruno says. “It gives me a universal voice to speak about something almost impossible to describe with words. After I complete a photo shoot and see my final image, I feel so relieved to have transformed a once uncontrollable nightmare into something positive and tangible.”

BrunoSleepless-1

“The characters I portray within my work are figures I’ve documented within my sleep paralysis episodes. Faceless men in suits often stand at the foot of my bed, and women in dresses might float across my bedroom to shriek in my ear. Sometimes I’m grasped by hands that attempt to drag me off of my bed. These characters reoccur, transform, and sometimes reveal more about themselves as time goes on,” explains Bruno.

Though Bruno still suffers from regular episodes of sleep paralysis, he has learned to minimize the contributing factors, which include excessive stress, too much screen time before bed, an irregular sleep schedule, and sleeping in unfamiliar locations.

BrunoSleepless-2

“As I’ve become used to the feelings,” he says, “I’ve found that riding out the experience subdues the terrifying nature of the dream and can leave room for analysis, and even a quick exit. If you allow the fear to win, you’ll never have control of the situation. My advice is to build up your courage to face these dreams head on, whether it be through strength, religion, logic, or spiritualism.”

I struggle with sleeplessness and insomnia, too. Strange dreams of partially true vignettes of moments in my past life sometimes intermingle with “newly scripted” happenings, making for a weird combination of mental nighttime gymnastics.

I’m a cancer survivor as well as a caregiver to my wife. No stress here!

When I consider the various meds I take daily as well as the numerous decisions and judgement calls my wife and I make on a daily basis, it’s probably no wonder why I have insomnia. And weird dreams.

I was interested when I heard about a lecture recently given by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston relative to sleeplessness and insomnia. Here’s a link to a presentation I received that evening so you, too, can gain insight into this all-too troubling disorder.

Please don’t hesitate to share your own insomnia stories, especially if you have learned some techniques to counter or offset this malaise.

 

 

 

 

Sir John at 2018 Cannes Festival of Creativity on, well, Creativity.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve been involved in the advertising and marketing industry for a long time. Mostly, I’ve enjoyed it. I love creating things. I love the creative process, creative problem solving. I love creativity.

Creativity is, in part, what this blog is all about. It’s also, me thinks, one of those words that is vastly overused, and when you ask several people what is meant by it, you’ll get several different responses. It’s difficult for most folks to equate creativity with, say, engineering. Frankly, I think it was damned creative when the design and engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge came about.

Creativity is always evolving. We, as creative practitioners, should be evolving right along with it. So, whenever I see an article on the subject or hear a renowned expert talk about it, I want to read and listen to what is said. Maybe I can pick up some tips.

That happened recently when reading an issue of AdAge. I thought I’d share some of what I read.

The expert: Sir John Hegarty.

Sir John Hegarty Cannes 2016

Sir John Hegarty attends The Cannes Lions 2016 on June 20, 2016 in Cannes, France.
(June 19, 2016 – Source: Christian Alminana/Getty Images Europe)

Sir John was attending the 2018 Cannes Festival of Creativity where he’s been coming since 1989. A founding shareholder in Saatchi & Saatchi and a co-founder of TBWA London before starting Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 1982, Sir John has himself been behind hall of fame work for Levi’s, Volkswagen and Audi. Never shy about his opinions, Hegarty took the opportunity of yet another Cannes Lions to share a few thoughts on the current state of creativity with Ad Age.

A few excerpts from the interview by . . .

You’ve bemoaned the increasing role data and tech have played in the creative process.

I was accused by Martin Sorrell of being a dinosaur because somebody said “Hegarty doesn’t believe in data,” which is not actually true. Data is fundamentally important. One of the greatest stories ever told, the Nativity, came out of data collection, didn’t it? You’ve got to remember a brand’s job is also to convert.  . . . Go out and throw your net wide. How do I know who’s going to like what I’m selling?

Meaning that with targeting, advertisers are preaching to the converted?

It’s not that. It’s a lazy way of marketing: “Look at the data, what does the data tell us? It’s an instruction manual!” No, it’s not an instruction manual. You’ve got to think about how you’re building the values of this brand. I know I’m boring and I say this all the time, but a brand is made not only by the people who buy it but also by the people who know about it.

“Those people” being the brand itself and also agents of the brand?

If I say to you “Rolls Royce,” you say, “Ooh!” You’re probably not going to buy one, but by talking to a broad audience who understands what your brand is about, you become part of culture. We are forgetting that part of advertising’s function of course is about effectiveness, but it’s also helping that brand become a part of culture.

Last year the talk was all about Fearless Girl. There doesn’t seem to be a corollary this year.

I’ll get provocative here again: Fearless Girl did what for the brand? I don’t know what brand it was associated with. We’ve lost connection. We’ve confused persuasion with promotion. Everybody got hugely excited about the Nike FuelBand 10 years ago. I thought it was a brilliant promotion. I used to be a runner. There was no way I would ever run in Nikes. New Balance, yes. I don’t care how many FuelBands you create, I won’t buy them. I don’t think you make a great running shoe. You have to persuade me.

What do you make of consultancies moving into the agency space?

Why shouldn’t these people get involved? Unless you understand how to convert that into a communications program that stands out in the marketplace, then what’s the point? The trouble is agencies are their own worst enemies and are not very good at establishing a trusted rapport with clients.

You mentioned the Nativity being the original data-informed creative. You look at the Ten Commandments, some of the most enduring “content” ever, and it was written on stone. The oldest medium there is.

Exactly. The greatest brand in the world is the Catholic Church. Best logo. Every lesson in marketing is there. The point is: Two thousand years, some problems, still going. Where will you be in 2,000 years?

Well, gee, Sir John, I don’t know where I’ll be in 2,000 years. I imagine I’ll most likely have been turned into a pile of dust somewhere or maybe I’ll have been recycled somehow. The key word here is imagine-ation. It’s the heart and soul of creativity. Each one of us has an unlimited imagination and boundless creativity — even when we think we don’t.

It’s when limitations are thrust upon us that our abilities are challenged. At times, our creativity is even called into question. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It’s what we do with our knowledge that’s important.

How may we apply creativity and that imagination to do something constructive with that knowledge, to contribute to society, to help educate someone; heck, even to make someone laugh. We must keep on creating, keep on striving.

Does it take a mindset of creativity to be creative? Huh, imagine that!

Hall of Fame Quotes – Advertising & Otherwise

As it’s been some time since I last submitted for your amusement various illustrious quotes, I thought I’d showcase another in a series of worth-remembering “sayings” which I find interesting and inspiring, and, hopefully, you will, too.

Some quotes are from the American Advertising Federation newsletter “Smart Brief,” while others come from various sources. Enjoy!!

red-quotation-marks-vector-online-royalty-free-picture-435958Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine. David Ogilvy

Nothing will put a bad product out of business faster than a good advertising campaign. Advertising causes people to try a product once, but poor quality eliminates any possibility of a repeat purpose.  Morris Hite

Never hesitate to steal a good idea.  Al Neuharth

I like that they are talking about the work. If they aren’t talking, then your brand is dead.  Alex Bogusky

Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot.  Bob Pritchard – VoiceAmerica Business Channel

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.  Bob Pritchard – VoiceAmerica Business Channel

Advertising becomes a dialogue that becomes an invitation to a relationship.   Lester Wunderman

Energy and persistence conquer all things.  Benjamin Franklin

Vision without execution is simply hallucination.  Bob Pritchard

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There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.  Bob Pritchard

The Boundaries of the Imagination

Are there any?

That’s what a recent weekend conference at The Jung Center on Montrose in the Museum District here in Houston explored. What did we come up with? Jury’s still out.

The Boundaries of the Imagination

I’ve been to only a couple of seminars at The Jung Center over the years and, coincidentally, both had to do with imagination as it relates to imagery and creativity.

Both were also moderated by my friend, Felix Scardino, author of The Pebble and the Canyon.

Now, I’m not a therapist nor do I have that type of background, although I have spent years in the advertising and creative industry so, I suppose, there are some who would say I’ve been in therapy all these years!

This special summer conference, The Boundaries of the Imagination, intrigued me.

When I reviewed the list of speakers for this weekend conference, I’ll admit to not knowing any of them. Yet, I anticipated the experience, the topics. I also assumed I would be in the minority; I am not a therapist or a psychologist. I’m just a curious creative.

Friday night began with a lecture from Jeffrey Kripal, PhD, past chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. His lecture, “When the Imagined Is Not Imaginary,” seemed to center on the evolutionary goal of imagination. Quite extraordinary.

Though it was a very thoughtful discussion, it really got down into the “imaginary weeds” for this listener. When Jeffrey mentioned the term “imaginal,” he went on to define it according to one Mr. Frederick Myers as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

According to Frederick Myers, imaginal is defined as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

HELLO!  Spiritual steroids? I’m not sure what the hell that means but it grabbed my attention.

Saturday morning’s session, “The Street of Heaven Was as Glass,” was a conversation between Jay Wehnert (right, below) of Intuitive Eye, his arts organization founded in 2011, and Vanzant Driver (left, below), a Houston-based artist whose work  is included in The Menil Collection.

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This conversation was a highlight for me personally just to listen and observe. One of the observations from Vanzant really touched my spirit – “Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity.”

DAMN!

“I can’t wait to inspire somebody,” Vanzant said. “This should be what gets you up everyday.”

Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity – Vanzant Driver

Since different attendees would no doubt mention other things that got their attention, I won’t attempt to cover everything from that weekend. My thoughts and impressions are my own. So are my dreams and my imagination.

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There will also be other blog posts, I’m sure.

As a photog-hobbyist, I couldn’t help but capture one of my conference colleagues chatting with Vanzant about her artwork in abstract visualization (I think that’s what she called it). Her paintings are hanging in back of her and Vanzant.

According to Vanzant, the philosopher, “the most powerful things in the universe are things you can’t see.”

We sometimes forget this. Hmmm, let me rephrase that . . . we rarely remember this!

 

Before we wound up our weekend conference, I participated in one last exercise. I played in the sand. Well, I had my own sand trap, er, tray. I even got to select as many toys, er, symbols, as I could carry.

But before that, I closed my eyes and “became one with the sand.” I moved my hands around the sand and just had fun, like the little kid inside me did many years ago, both on Lake Charles (LA) and Galveston beaches.

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“Playing in the Imagination” was what we did under the watchful eyes of Michele Lees, a depth psychotherapist in private practice in Houston with emphasis and training in Jungian psychology. And, evidently, one helluva sand castle builder!

Each one of the objects in my sand tray above represented something to me; some of them really did “call out to me” to be chosen, just as Michelle advised they would.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that is indeed a sleigh sitting within the branches of the Christmas tree . . . on a beach next to a treasure chest near a beached boat. The symbolism I was feeling that Sunday morning was both of fond memories and sadness (note the half buried Eiffel Tower near the voodoo doll), and, well, use your imagination to figure out the rest.

The entire weekend was like nothing I had experienced before. Not being a therapist, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being of the creative bent, I anticipated exploring my imagination in ways I had not, uh, imagined before.

Presenters to 2016 Summer Conference at Jung Center

Each one of the “speakers, therapists, authors, experts” were enlightening and, dare I say, imaginative. If you get the chance to hear one of these folks speak or present, go for it.

Have we been underestimating the power and reach of the imagination? Perhaps.

It is my firm belief that creativity is entrenched in our imagination. In fact, my favorite definition of imagination is “intelligence having fun.”

Yet, is imagination a location, an experience, a physical phenomenon? What is, as the brochure talking about this conference asks, its hidden power in a culture that tends to understand imagination as the opposite of reality?

Are there boundaries of imagination? If so, how many and are they truly discernible? What are the possibilities in exploring them and what do we risk?

What if we come to understand that imagination is reality?

What then?

Then, my friends, we come to grips with our emotions and, when we’re ready, if we truly are, we take another trek into the vast landscape of our own imagination to explore.

But be cautious. Rational thought may be cast aside; symbolism may take over. Creativity may be awakened. A new masterpiece may be unfolding right before your eyes.

Capture it, and enjoy . . . before it goes poof!

 

Editors Note: Those of you wanting to see Jay & Vanzant’s conversation can view it on YouTube.

It’s Friday . . . What’s that you say, Fred?


Fred Flintstone at Halifax Bank

It’s Friday and I’m ready for a good chuckle.

Actually, I got my chuckle a few days ago when I first read about this ad for Halifax Bank in the U.K. Featuring a few of The Flintstones’ characters, the spot does a wonderful job with the animation and the bank’s message.

Kudos to them for wanting to do something different, especially being somewhat contrarian to that British stiff-upper-lip perception.

According to Creativity Magazine, U.K. bank Halifax has collaborated with Warner Bros. once again, this time to feature Flintstones in a spot about switching banks. This ad, by Adam&Eve/DDB, sees Fred and Wilma walk into a Halifax branch and interact with a real-life manager as they explain why they want to switch from their Bedrock bank.

Once again, directorial duo Dom&Nic at Outsider worked with the Mill’s VFX team to integrate the iconic animated characters into a live action setting, and recreate them authentically (and) as close to the original as possible.

The team worked closely with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to get the character designs as accurate as possible, combining modern techniques with more traditional methods.

To give it a classic aged look, the Mill team also hand animated and color graded the entire end sequence, where we see Fred with his new shoes taking Wilma home, followed by Dino. Love the scene where a banker-lady is giving Dino a treat!

I’ve always appreciated a scenario when the agency is blessed with a client who is willing to bend or even break the supposed rules in order to impress and be innovative in a classy and, in this case, cute execution of a timeless classic.

The situation is scripted well and the actors are, well, believable. More importantly, the creative treats the concept with respect.

Alas, the poor boob who plays the banker. Imagine playing second fiddle to a famous caveman who is not part of Geico. Ah, the Brits!

Way to go, Fred and Wilma!