Civic Engagement

Creativity, the Arts and Civic Life

Author Robert Fulghum has observed that when children are in kindergarten, they all say that they can draw, sing, dance and act. Studies have shown that people’s willingness to engage in the arts and to be creative can decrease dramatically as we get older. Yet we all know that to address our world’s pressing challenges, we need to think creatively, to imagine new possibilities, to see in surprising ways.

During this year we are exploring the role of creativity and the arts in civic engagement. Certainly a particular focus on fine arts and aesthetics will be important in our conversation. For example, in what ways should a discussion about beauty enter into our civic discourse? Who controls the power to define what is “art” or what is aesthetically pleasing? How have particular social change movements been influenced by the arts — and art affected by the controversies of its era?

In addition, we will also explore how creativity and the imagination infuse all disciplines. For instance, how does an appreciation of beauty shape our interactions with other humans and the natural world? How might creativity be nurtured and applied to seemingly intractable problems, such as our fear of people different from us or global responses to climate change or ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? More broadly, how can we, whatever our academic discipline, unleash our creative gifts for the purposes of God’s universal kingdom?

Summer reading text

Through these and many other related issues, we welcome the campus community to join together to discuss these important questions.

The summer reading text is Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein.