Teaching art and music in school might be the most important ways to open up creativity, enhance in the ability to imagine new ways of doing things and aid in problem solving.
Unfortunately, in a back-to-the-basics era of reading, writing and arithmetic coupled with standardized testing, school leaders often cut these programs first.
That’s why Salt Lake City art and photography teacher Kenneth Lund is on a personal mission to help people of all ages use artistic expression as a way of not only having fun but also of learning to find creative solutions to problems that sometimes seem too complex to solve.
"It is my experience that creative thinking is the first step to crafting solutions to just about any problem or challenge," said Lund, who teaches classes at the Fairmont Park Aquatic Center, the Holladay Lions Club, Liberty Park and the Pioneer Craft House. "Developing the skill to disconnect momentarily from chaotic routines and slip into a creative thinking mode can provide both personal replenishment and open the mind to previously unthought-of possibilities."
Lund tells the story of a Park City woman who dragged her reluctant husband to an art workshop a few years ago. The man, a successful businessman, did not want to be there. Yet, a few months later, he called Lund to say that he and his wife went to Sun Valley, Idaho, on a business trip. After dinner, the couple decided to try to go outdoors with their sketchbooks.
"It was one of the best evenings we’ve ever spent," the man said.
Lund has a blog — http://easelbrushbus.blogspot.com — where he writes about his adventures on public transit. He discovered the mode of transportation after having eye surgery and not being able to drive while recovering. So he took buses, TRAX, Frontrunner and even the casino bus to Wendover so he could sketch scenes or explore new areas. He often took long walks from transit stops.
"Drawing is something I do for myself," he wrote on the blog. "Going out sketching for long periods of time is like meditation. Time vanishes as I sit for long stretches of time, calmed by the process of laying out the varied forms of both the urban and natural subjects I pursue. I am constantly intrigued by capturing what something actually looks like, as opposed to what preconceived knowledge of the subject I might have assumed."
Personally, some of the best writers I ever met kept journals where they not only wrote what they saw, but sketched things as well. As someone who has never been good at drawing, I’ve only tried this technique a few times. While I found it helped my observational skills, I so lacked talent that I’m not sure the drawings ever actually helped formulate a story.
Lund said that whether you are an adult or a child, sketching not only helps sharpen observational skills, but is simply fun.
"The first thing I tell people is that they are not here about the result," he said. "The process is to enjoy sketching or photography."
Photography requires a different skill set from sketching. Lund said he sees people taking his classes with $1,000 cameras who have never moved from the automatic mode. He goes into the more technical aspects such as apertures, shutter speeds, white balance and the use of lighting to enhance a shot. He is even working with a photographer friend to allow students a chance to rent time in a professional studio.
Though a user of social media, he urges students to turn off their cellphones and other electronic devices for 15 minutes a day and take time to do a little sketch. He thinks that might help improve their productivity and, surprisingly, help them come up with solutions to problems in business or life.
After all, art stimulates creativity.
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