Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why Do You Take So Many Workshops?

Ink, gesso & metallic pigment
on paper

Last year I attended ISS (Intensive Studies Seminar), Taos, NM. There were 80 artists and four teachers; Skip Lawrence, Fran Larsen,   Katherine Chang Liu (the reason I went), and Christopher "Toph" Schink.  

There were four pods, 20 artists per podd, and one teacher assigned to each pod. Fran Larsen was our pod's teacher. When we had our first one on one meeting, she asked, "Why do you take so many workshops?" 

Indeed, why? "Primarily to be with other artists and learning from teachers whom I admire."

 If she were to ask me that question, today, I would add, "workshops are incubators for creative expansion."

When creative minds collect, with a gifted facilitator, in an environment that allows the focus to be solely on developing the artists, we become creative atoms bouncing off of each other; a virtual pinball machine of creative collision.

There was a time in our history where creative expansion was almost viral, the Italian Renaissance. From 1400-1600, creativity flourished with abandon. Why then?

In his book, Creative Intelligence, Bruce Nussbaum explains it was a combination of social and cultural environments.

The wealthy showcased their wealth through the acquisition of art and Renaissance Florence was an immensely rich city-state. Supply and demand. Patrons wanted art which created a demand for artists. Art became an industry and an industry needs inventory.  Art communities were established and artists collaborated, critiqued and competed with each other in efforts to acquire commissions from the wealthy patrons.

In a way, workshops provide a similar environment. We gather together and push each other to create quite a volume of work in a short period of time. Being with like minded spirits seems to encourage us to higher plateaus of creativity. With the right blend of teacher and students, it can be an enormously enriching experience. And usually, it continues to unfold long after the workshop is over.

The creative harmony and vibrations that travel around us as we work, together, yet alone, cannot be replicated or achieved solitary in a studio. Creative magic meets creative muse.

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