Tag: creativity

What If?

What If

I like mantras.  Every once in a while I adopt a new personal mantra and litter my world with it; tacking it to my refrigerator, my computer, and my office walls.   I’ve had the same mantra for several years now:

What if?

Those two words are staring at me now from the wall beyond my computer.  I cut them out of a glossy brochure I discovered at a science museum years ago.

What if?


It’s a short phrase, but powerful. Being mindful of this motivational tagline keeps imagination at the center of my daily thinking habits.  It’s so easy to forget about imagination; I don’t really need it at the grocery store or dry cleaner.   I can pull weeds, swim laps, do loads of laundry, and drive to work without an ounce of imagination.

The problem is when I ignore imagination during more significant and consequential moments of my day – while contemplating the Helen Frankenthaler painting at our museum, problem-solving with my teenage daughter, or tackling a new project at work, for example.

Asking What if? is like opening the window to a cabin boarded up for the winter.  All of a sudden you see the cobwebs in the corner and the dust heaping on the tables.  So often in our daily lives, we take those cobwebs for granted.  Remembering to ask What if? forces me to thrust open the window and shine some light on them.  Asking What if? reminds me that I have the capacity to make change.  Asking What if? provokes me to think in a new way.  Asking What if? challenges me to acknowledge that some of those old cobwebs are not doing a darn thing to enhance my life or work or relationships.

What if I let all of the weeds grow this year!

What if I go to a museum I’ve never visited before to discover a new mantra?


Happily, I am not the only one who espouses the benefits of asking What if?  The Lincoln Center Institute is a champion of imaginative thinking habits.

What if you start asking What if? periodically today?  I’d love to hear about the cobwebs you discover and choose to sweep away.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

Merilee Mostov, Manager for Creative Initiatives

Why Boredom Matters

What happens when boredom sets in

For our first “Musings from the Center for Creativity” I wanted to focus on an aspect of creativity that has been the catalyst for some of the greatest ideas in history… boredom. Two years ago I began asking adults to recall moments of great creativity from their childhood.  Story after story would recall fort building, bridges across creeks, traps intended for younger siblings etc., but most of those ideas began from a place of boredom.  These were kids forced to fill their summer with ideas all of their own.

As an educator obsessed with the diminishing creative opportunities for students in school I am constantly considering the ways we as teachers can foster question development, curiosity and risk taking. But as a mom with a 7- and 3-year-old, I realize I may be hindering their creativity. We live in a society where children are used to being entertained by television, electronic games and overly structured time.  So this summer I vowed, I would make way for BOREDOM.

Kids need practice with unstructured time, or they’ll never learn to manage it. As a mom, I address boredom in three ways…

1.  Actively engage – demonstrate creative ways to fill time.
EG: Build a bus in the living room (see above), or visit the Wonder Room together.
2.  Provide a challenge.
EG: Make a scooter obstacle course  or make a dozen Lego ships with special powers (see above).
3.  Encourage idea generation.
EG: Read below.

Over the long weekend, I strategically decided to engage my children in #3. I desperately needed to work in the yard. I booted the kids outside, and my mere instruction was to play. When I went to check on them, I found them standing inside two tubs filled with water from the hose.  The mom in me screamed, “Don’t you know you can drown in just two inches of water!” But, I calmed down as I deconstructed their process.

My kids had a problem.  They were bored and hot.
They activated a number of creative thinking skills as they worked through the boredom.
1.  Solving the problem started by spraying the hose and filling buckets with water (fluency of ideas).
2.  Realizing that the garage organization tubs could be made into mega buckets (flexibility of ideas).
3.  Finally realizing that the tubs were big enough to be personalized… swimming pools! (originality).
This simple example demonstrates the type of thinking kids are going to need in the future.  Neuroscientist and author, Jonathan Lehrer, tells us that during the boredom, the brain is busy generating new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. The brain, rather than going quiet, is actually growing!

So this summer, make way for boredom and see what happens.

Over the past 18 months, in preparation for opening CMA’s new Center for Creativity (on Jan. 1, 2011), the entire education staff immersed ourselves in research on creativity, particularly what is necessary to cultivate creativity.  Musings from the Center for Creativity is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts on this topic.  Please share your views and resources with us, as well.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

Cindy Foley, Director of Education

Summer Classes at CMA

Columbus Museum of Art Mythbusters Summer Art Workshop

Summer Art Workshops at CMA have begun, and the creativity of kids’ brains has certainly been on display. Periodically this week I’ve been popping in to check on the progress of our Mythbusters art class for first and second graders.

Over the course of the week, this enthusiastic and creative bunch of kids created Louise Nevelson like wood sculptures (their lesson on balance); Chihuly ‘glass’ projects where they melted plastic plates in a toaster oven to demonstrate how objects can go from solid to liquid to solid again; art ‘inventions’ (everything from a porcupine to a magnetic picker-upper as one girl described hers). They made and painted kites (and then flew them in the nearby Topiary Park). They acted as scientists drawing and inventing new creatures such as the dragonook, a fire breathing, flying, Tigger like dragon. They learned about force and electricity, magnets and speed, and created a roller coaster for ants made out of toothpicks and marshmallows.

But perhaps my favorite project was their project on volume and matter. Each student was given an empty box and recycled materials, and in true Aminah Robinson fashion they used everything they had (buttons, pearls, ribbons, yarn, wood, feathers…). The result: artful dream homes full of colorful lamps, swings, fireplaces, tunnels and bridges, even a lemon-scented TV.

Like the saying goes, there’s no place like home.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

Jennifer Poleon, Digital Communications Manager