In schools, curriculum activities in the art-room are often associated with creative work. This is not to say that creative skills can only be developed through art. In fact, virtually all areas of the curriculum have the potential to foster creativity. It is, however, not far fetched to acknowledge that opportunities for a creative response are probably much greater in art than in most other subject areas and activities. In this lesson, we shall explore the concept of creativity and discuss ways by which creativity can be enhanced through art.
The Concept of Creativity
Creativity is a predisposition towards seeing relationships and coming up with new and satisfying arrangements. Creativity can be manifest in almost all spheres of human endeavor. It could be a scientific theory, an improved product, a painting, design, and so on. It may even be evident in ordinary activities as cooking and play among others. It is usually associated with such things as discovery, invention, curiosity, imagination, experimentation, and the like. Psychologists tell us that those who are highly creative tend to get fed up with things remaining unchanged for too long. They are always looking for new and effective arrangements and ideas. For such people creativity is a life style. Creativity has brought many benefits to mankind as evidenced in the areas of transport and communication, health and medicine, food production and so on. But this is not to say that each and every creative idea is always socially beneficial; the origins of some wars and plunder can be traced to creative idea.
Like art, creativity has no one universally acknowledged definition. Despite this, however, experts are agreed that creativity gives rise to new ideas. A classic way of defining creativity has been to contrast it with intelligence. To this end, creativity is often equated with divergent thinking and intelligence with convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is productive in nature and usually gives rise to more new ideas, while convergent thinking tends to result in lesser new ideas. Convergent thinking is often thought of as leading to conventional responses and divergent thinking- to unconventional responses.
Experts conceive creativity as a human attribute that is far too complex to be understood fully. Creativity is also seen as multi-faceted. According to J.P. Guilford (1956), there are various forms of creativity; these include flexibility (variety of ideas), fluency (fertility of ideas), originality (infrequency of ideas) and elaboration (aptness of idea, its circumspection, its details, its simplicity, humour, and so on). Creativity tests are usually based on each of these four components. Further, creativity is also usually seen as involving many dimensions. It could be a product, a process, a trait, an environmental issue, and so on. As a product it is as a physical object or an idea that has been conceived and subsequently expressed. As a process, it involves the ways and means of arriving at a creative response. As a trait, it is recognized that certain individuals are more predisposed towards coming up with creative responses than others. The environmental concerns recognize that certain environments are more supportive of creativity than others. Some of these environmental factors shall be discussed in the next section of this chapter. As art teachers, in our efforts to facilitate the development of creative skills, it is necessary to understand the kinds of environmental conditions likely to promote creativity; hopefully we should then be in a better position to provide for such conditions in our art-rooms.
Conditions that engender Creativity
Psychologists tell us that certain conditions are likely to lead to greater creativity than others. We can think of such conditions as necessary for creativity. The conditions are however ideals as no society or culture can provide for them fully. They are:
- Freedom of expression and movement
- Lack of fear of dissent and movement
- Willingness to break away with traditions and convention
- Spirit of play as well as dedication to work
Freedom of Expression and Movement
Creativity calls for an environment without restrains. One will not be in a position to create if s/he happens to be physically restrained as in prison or under house arrest. Even the threat of arrest as in laws and regulations is enough to curtail one’s creativity. There is however no environments in which freedom is absolute. Society is structured in such a way that rules and regulations govern how individuals carry themselves and relate to others. Some societies will of course provide for greater freedoms than others will. Those that are strictly authoritarian are unlikely to encourage creativity.
- Lack of Fear of Dissent and Contradiction
In addition to physical restrain as elaborated in section 7.3.1 above, fear alone can act as restraint. This is because one who is fearful of probable consequences will quite often have to censor him/herself.
- Willingness to break away with Traditions and Conventions
In all societies, artists (be they visual or otherwise) are leaders. They comment on social issues- challenging and pushing social boundaries and ultimately changing societies. In turn, societies tend to put up boundaries and are often unwilling to accept change. Artists must therefore be courageous enough to be willing to break away with traditions and conventions if the are to achieve creatively Spirit of play as well as dedication to work In many instances creative responses have been achieved when people are relaxed as opposed to when they are involved in intense mental activity. Archimedis Principle is a case in point. Therefore, to be creative one must allow himself opportunity to relax ones in a while. There are various strategies an art teacher can adopt to get learners to relax after a period of intense mental activity. Sense of Purpose towards a given Task Motivation, drive and interest are clearly key ingredients for success in any endeavour. Certainly, the greater the interest or sense of purpose in an endeavour the greater will be opportunity for success. *Reward Encouragement and recognition are key ingredients for creative output. Encouragement acts as a push or incentive for continuation of creative output. Encouragement can take many forms ranging from recognition by peers and the society at large to financial to monetary gain. In an art-room encouragement takes the form of reinforcement of creative responses when a teacher praises a learner’s contribution or acknowledges a learner’s response.
Some Basic Principles of Creativity
Below are some basic principles of creativity. They are viewed as principles in that they are basic facts on which most experts are agreed upon All learners have the potential to be creative. Creativity is not a gift of a chosen few. It is present in each and every learner only the degree of potentiality varies from one learner to the other. Creativity is both a process and a product. As a process it involves ways and means (the how) and as a product it refers to the uniqueness of the form (object) or idea. Creativity is a skill. Like any other skill say writing, reading or riding a bicycle it requires practice with the right tools and in the right environment. Creativity is interdisciplinary in nature and is useful in virtually all spheres of life. Consequently, all areas of the curriculum can be used to develop creativity. As a subject, art perhaps lends itself a little more favourably to the development of creativity than most other school subjects. Creativity cannot be taught, only conditions suitable for its development can be set. Conformity and rigidity are true enemies of creativity.
Elements or Factors of creativity: These include flexibility (variety of ideas), fluency (fertility of ideas), originality (infrequency of ideas) and elaboration (aptness of idea, its circumspection, its details, its simplicity, humour, and so on). Creativity tests are usually based on each of these four components.