Hello! Welcome to the last week of the #sparksummerschool. This week we are going to be spending time Connecting with Others.
Last week we explored the world outside us, finding sources of wonder in our surroundings, paying attention to the ordinary and extraordinary in our urban or rural everyday lives. Hopefully you noticed what sorts of places fire up your creativity, what subjects draw your gaze.
Perhaps slightly ironically I spent most of the week inside on a course. But this experience gave me quite a lot of time to experience the same routine, the same outdoor and indoor spaces, and to notice what changed throughout the week. As my connection to my creativity increases through this summer school programme, I find myself taking impromptu pictures on my phone more and more. And this week I felt compelled to document a building site with its glorious cranes, the architecture of the building I was in and the movements of a group of display boards within this space. It seemed my theme for the week was structure. I found it really interesting to reflect on this, in a way that I probably don’t do normally.
This week is all about casting our area of interest outward even further to include other people. We’ll consider how our creativity can be fired up by working with or for others, how connecting with other people offers so much possibility.
Now, it might be that your creativity isn’t particularly interested in playing with others. Yours might be an intensely private and self-contained creative practice. But, at some point most of us will want to share what we create with others, and even this involvement of others (as an audience, slightly separate from you) can lead to new creative avenues. [However, I feel I should mention that I’m not talking about connecting with others in the sense of selling your work or promoting your business. I’m talking about the role of other people in your creativity, how other people might spark inspiration for creation or be the catalyst for it.]
Let’s start by asking what role other people have in your creativity:
• Are other people ‘present’ while you work?
• Do you create with particular people in mind?
• Do you create to respond to issues that affect other people? Or to highlight issues to other people?
• Do you create to engage in a conversation with other people?
• Is your creative work a solo activity?
• Do you prefer to be engaged in collaborative work (whether in person or remotely)?
• Does your creativity like to be put to service to help other people?
• Does your creativity like to watch other people create?
If your creativity tends to be a private practice, what elements of connecting with others could you try to see what effect it has on your work?
Consider these possibilities:
• Visiting someone else’s studio or work space
• Observing someone else at work
• Working alongside someone – on your own projects
• Working alongside someone – on a shared project
• Starting a conversation with someone whose work you admire about a topic you love
• Joining a conversation with people online about a topic you feel strongly about in your work
• Share an aspect of your creative practice with others (in person or online)
• Starting an informal collaboration with someone via email or social media (could be that you post and respond, or simultaneously post on a shared theme)
• Establishing a collaboration with someone on a new project or piece of work (could be in person or remote)
[Or if these situations create anxiety is there a way to connect with others through your creativity that may not involve you putting yourself in situations you may not enjoy? Perhaps it’s less about direct contact with others but the intent or inspiration of the work to connect with others. Perhaps it becomes more internal, a consideration of making work for others to be affected by, or to respond to others.]
What possibilities do these scenarios offer for your creativity? Where might they take it or push it? What new ideas might be discovered through this way of working? What new opportunities for sharing and exploring your work?
The resources I’ve gathered this week highlight the work of people and artists whose creativity thrives when it’s allowed to work with others or for others. It’s fascinating to see that in action. However, I’m aware that not everyone feels that way. For them their creativity is not driven by external factors, which may include other people. Just as one person’s creativity may not be at all interested in the natural world (as a source of inspiration) it’s just as likely that another person’s relationship to other people through their creativity is mostly one of ‘people as an audience or community’ and that’s fine. What this summer school programme has been all about is discovering these things about your creativity for yourself. Of greater self-awareness and understanding about your own unique sources of inspiration and expression.
RESOURCES FOR THE WEEK
The resources I’ve selected for you to read, watch, listen to aren’t a definitive list. There’s lots out there on connecting with others through collaboration or community-based projects.
I’m not expecting anyone to go out and get all the books or to listen to every episode of these podcasts. They’re just some places I found interesting ideas or that sparked some thinking for me
Later on in the week I’ll be asking you for your list of resources to do with Connecting with Others – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Good luck connecting this week!
‘Amanda Palmer on Creativity as Connecting Dots and the Terrifying Joy of Sharing Your Art Online’
Connecting with others isn’t always lovely, there is a darker side to sharing (especially online). This talk by Amanda Palmer reminds us why we should still be brave and make those connections.
The wonder and humanity of a mural that spans 50 buildings
This is the story of a vast artwork that began as an individual project for artist eL Seed but grew to involve the whole community.
The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander
I love this book so much that whenever I spot a copy in a secondhand book shop I buy a copy to give as a gift. I currently have 3 copies waiting for new homes. Every time I read it I’m reminded that possibility exists most fully when we are engaged in partnership with others. This book shows you how. Read my review here.
The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
This follow up book to The Creative Habit (read my review here) focuses on working with other people. In it choreographer Twyla Tharp examines specific collaborations from her working life and analyses what was successful and what wasn’t.
‘Public art that turns cities into playgrounds of the imagination.’ Helen Marriage
An incredibly moving insight into the community-focused art experiences created by Artichoke, a company that works with artists to create extraordinary and ambitious public art in cities, the countryside and on coastlines around the UK.
‘Be an opportunity maker’ Kare Anderson
A talk about the power of connecting with others to enable them to shine creatively.
‘Meet Jim, citizen of the World’
If you ever wonder what effect you, as one person living a fairly ordinary life, could have on the world, watching this amazing story of the life of Jim Haynes will give you the boost you need. A timely reminder of how we are all citizens of the world and the vital role the Arts play in expression, protest and connection. Currently available on the BBC iplayer
This American Life
A podcast of almost unbelievable scale – sharing stories about everything, and everyone, you can imagine.