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.

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Our Creative Economy: Listen up, Houston!

This past Monday, April 11, I had the pleasure of attending a day-long discussion “Valuing the Creative Economy” at the third Leadership in the Arts Summit held at the Center for Arts Leadership at the University of Houston. Quite a stunning facility!

I learned about this summit from my friend and Only in Houston Co-chair Alfred Cervantes, who besides being the deputy director of the Houston Film Commission was also a panelist addressing the question “Creative Economy: What is it and why does it matter”?

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Because of the length of the Summit and the depth of discussion that took place and will continue in the weeks and months to come, there will be subsequent posts about our progress and how all this can tie together here in Houston. There will also be photos and presentations from the Summit posted to the Center’s website in the days ahead.

The goal of the Summit, according to Sixto Wagan, Director, Center for Arts Leadership, is “to bring our creative community together to talk and to envision a collective future. The panels are meant to push beyond the simple binaries, help us question assumptions, and move the conversation forward toward action.”

Christine Harris lead the opening plenary (formal seminar-speak) “Creative Economy: What is it and why does it matter”? Christine has been working with creative enterprises and community development for over 30 years and was recently in Houston last November headlining a similarly-themed morning workshop at the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) and an evening panel discussion at Gensler.

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Harris co-founded the Creative Economy Coalition, a working committee of the National Creativity Network, and designed and executed the nation’s first review of defining the creative economy. This study profiled and inventoried how 27 communities around the nation were profiling and measuring their creative economies. She was CEO of Creative Alliance Milwaukee, where she managed a full profile of the regional creative economy and developed online resources for the sector.

It’s not my intent to cover all that was discussed during the Summit in one blog post. We’d be reading for days! I merely want to further the conversation that was “started” last November and continued this past Monday.

And Houston, we’ve got work to do.

Just consider these questions:

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And then, there’s the $64,000 question:

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Obviously, these questions don’t have simple, ready-made answers. They do, however, demand discussion and we need to continue this.

Feel free to comment and send me input on possible answers or solutions to these questions. You can also post your ideas on OiH-FaceBook and/or the Arts Leadership-FaceBook.

The various communication organizations in and around the city are a major resource for input and counsel. So, too, are the fine educational and non-profit venues in our area. Although this Summit centered around the arts, creativity knows no boundaries.

Through the American Advertising Federation Houston (AAFH), Only in Houston (OiH) was born a decade ago. Its intent was, and still is, to keep local creative dollars spent locally. There was even a multi-communication organization formed years ago (Houston Communication Alliance) aimed at bringing together all “creatives.”

Times change as do people and industries. Houston’s Creative Economy and its driving forces need to meet today’s challenges with tomorrow in mind. We may need to rethink how this is done. Other communities around the country are doing so, and it will take just that: A Houston-wide effort. No one organization or person can do this.

At the risk of thinking out loud (even though I’m typing this in silence), maybe Only in Houston morphs into a “Houston Creative Coalition,” which is comprised of organizations like the Houston Arts Alliance, Greater Houston Partnership, numerous professional and arts organizations, etc.? We can learn a lot from others who have started something like this. But Houston needs to create something that works in Houston, not Boston.

And we must do a helluva lot better job of communicating with one another so that we all know what’s going on and when. No problem; piece o’ cake!

The Leadership in Arts Summit 2016 is a recent example of creativity and economics blending and working together for the common good. We need to make sure the conversation continues and progresses.

More to come . . .

Onward!

 

A TED Talk: Does Education Kill Creativity?

During a recent presentation I gave on creativity to the American Advertising Federation Rio Grande Valley, the question of education came up with respect to how it deals with creativity in a child’s life. The opinions were mixed. I referenced a TED talk from some years ago by Sir Ken Robinson in which he talks about this. I’ve posted it here for my brethren in the Valley and others who may not ever have seen this.

It is by far one of the most gripping and entertaining talks I have ever heard. Though he has several more on the TED YouTube channel, take a listen. It’ll make you think. But, do more than that. Act. Speak up. Don’t let our children be short-changed.

After all, we have plenty of crayons!

International Creativity Month: Bah Humbug!

Did you know that this month, January, is International Creativity Month? I didn’t; in fact, I’ve never heard of this before. Its notification sort of came to my attention by accident while I was glancing over other “interesting facts” about January.

As I wanted to learn more, I found out that motivational speaker Randall Munson founded International Creativity Month to “remind individuals and organizations around the globe to capitalize on the power of creativity,” according to his web site.

I can understand why he designated January – the first month of the year provides an opportunity for us to take a fresh approach to problem-solving and renew confidence in our creative capabilities.

My only problem with that is why limit reminding ourselves of the power of creativity to just one month! We should be practicing this mindset all 12 months of the year, at the beginning of each month.

Why? Consider this:

As pointed out in a recent article on this subject, businessman and author Harvey Mackay, cites a study by the research firm Strategy One. The study discovers about 52 percent of Americans consider themselves creative, but only 39 percent of Americans feel they’re living up to their creative potential. That’s one finding from a survey of 5,000 adults in the United States, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan (1,000 participants each).

To me, the percentages above are pretty dismal, especially in light of these stats:
•    85 percent of Americans feel that creativity is the key to driving economic growth.
•    82 percent feel that the US isn’t living up to its creative potential.
•    62 percent believe that our nation’s creativity is being stifled by our education system.
•    88 percent agree that everyone has the potential to be creative.

Time and money (no surprise) are the biggest obstacles, say Americans: 54 percent say lack of money prevents them from being creative, and 52 percent cite a lack of time. The lack of time conundrum is one that particularly irritates me.

Everyone is in a rush for brilliance; yet, the work won’t be brilliant (usually) because of a lack of time to do it. Particularly troubling is that clients tend to accept it anyway or they don’t understand why you didn’t have enough time or that the time frame was unrealistic in the first place! Most just don’t “get it.”

No matter how creative or wonderful we believe our idea to be, a great way to test how good and understandable it is, is to present it to an eight year old. If she doesn’t “get it,” you’ve not made yourself clear. Children are to be envied because of their unbridled creativity and imagination.

Then, as we grow into adults, we screw it all up. Pablo Picasso, one of the most creative artists who ever lived, said, “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

One of my favorite inspirations comes from another notable thinker, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel): “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”

Amen!

Nurturing one’s creativity takes a lifetime. So does feeding that child inside all of us. We need to remind ourselves of that every day and every month, not just in January.

Free Food for your Brain

Positive or negative. Informational or educational. Funny or serious. What about relevant? Yes. Yes. Yes. Hopefully!

Always striving to be pertinent and at least some of the above, this blog offers up thoughtful (most of the time) and informative material which helps provide a different perspective on the world of creativity and innovation. Sometimes it’s a Creativity Tip; other times, not. Today is one of those times.

For the solopreneur or small business/agency operator, attending conferences and seminars has become increasingly more expensive than it used to be. Granted, the ability to meet with and talk to folks face to face remains valuable. But sometimes, you just can’t justify the cost or time away from the office.

While there are a variety of online webinars, very few, it seems, are free. One in particular has gotten my attention because they not only offer a variety of valuable content, but they also go into great detail when presenting it. I refer to CreativeLive. I also refer to free.

Disclaimer here: I am not employed by them nor am I being paid for this mention and endorsement. They’re a good, viable resource.

Abstract design made of human head and symbolic elements on the subject of human mind, consciousness, imagination, science and creativity

“Diversity of the Mind”
Thanks to iStock Photo

Their approach to sharing creative knowledge is not restricted to the elements of design or writing, for example; however, that is a focus for some of their topics.

Recently, I’ve listened to experts on web design, blogging, being “creative on demand,” and selected a few

other topics during a solid “themed week” of live presentations.

Usually, the presenter gives away for download some instructional information. They also make available several other pieces which reflect, in detail, what is covered during the live show. If you miss these usually all day events, they rebroadcast it afterwards.

If you want anytime access to the broadcast and those other materials offered, you have the option of purchasing the presentation, and we’re not talking about hundreds of bucks here. My two separate purchases ran $49 and $79. Can’t beat that.

Whether it’s CreativeLive or some other venue of online presentation, consider going this route when you feel the need for continuing education at your own pace.

You’ll not only save some cash, but enjoy some delicious morsels of brain food. Bon appetite!