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Creativity during coronavirus

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  • Picture of Clare Gage FRSA
    Clare Gage FRSA
    Designer Maker working in ceramics, jewellery and creative education
  • Creativity
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There has been an outpouring of creativity in our world since coronavirus isolation and social distancing became part of our lives.

Faced with the challenge of the abrupt end of all live performances and classes the arts and culture sector has shown its inherent creativity by bringing experiences to us in our own homes.

Theatre performances are being shared via streaming platforms. Musicians are performing gigs from their living rooms. And we can all confess that access to film and TV has become an essential part of our lives!

These are unusual times where maintaining wellbeing is a challenge for us all. Arts and cultural experiences are helping us cope.

Now is the time to experiment with creativity

I would encourage everyone to experiment with creativity during this time. The results can be both relaxing and energising.

We find ourselves using our time differently. For many of us our lives appear to have slowed down. As we all step off the treadmill, we suddenly realise how fast it was moving.

Alongside entertaining us, artists are offering us the opportunity to participate in creativity ourselves. With online art classes, guidance is available for those that need the spark of inspiration.

Of course, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the abundance of output from our creative industries is a reaction to a challenge.

Those in the creative industries are facing extreme financial challenges with many self-employed and freelance. While we turn to creativity to help us, we could reflect on the value of the output given the precarious employment positions in the industry.

We have also witnessed examples of participatory creative experiences on a huge scale. The outpouring of emotion felt by so many who witnessed the ‘Clap for our Carers’ shows the impact of these experiences.

We see rainbows throughout our neighbourhoods, often created by our children but there for us all to experience and enjoy. Live art experiences on our doorsteps!

Can creativity help us build bridges to the future?

Whilst arts and culture are playing a huge part is assisting us to cope in the present, I wonder what part it could play as we look towards the future.

In the RSA's new podcast 'Bridges to the Future’ Matthew Taylor asks his guests How could – and how should – the world change when this pandemic is over?

How we could use arts and culture to engage our wider communities in this discussion?

Last year I created a community project in my hometown. Create Change Chesterfield had an intention to create a community of changemakers in our town - to inspire my community to become active citizens who look for ways to shape the world around them. Could we inspire our communities to think about what our world should look like after this crisis is over?

This won’t be straightforward. Various political twists and turns in recent years have challenged the belief that we are able to influence the decisions made by people in power. I believe many people would have little expectation that their thoughts will could have an influence.

Engaging our communities would take creative thinking as well as thoughtful methods of participation.

I’ve found aspects of creativity to be a way to facilitate people to think more deeply on a topic and free their thinking to embrace new ideas. Bringing this together with arts and culture’s ability to encourage participation in enjoyable experiences may help us to find a way through the challenge.

Each rainbow I see in a window makes me think that every household should be asked what future they would build. Perhaps through art, culture and creativity we could find a way to ask them this question and display the results for all to see.

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  • I wrote the following piece a while ago and put it on my LinkedIn account. Thought it was along similar lines.


    My wife was on a zoom meeting this afternoon with some friends, catching up on news that would normally have been discussed on a Friday night in our local pub, plus of course, how we are all managing with the lockdown.

    During the conversation, one reflected on, we as a group, had joined in the ‘re create a piece of art’ challenge and that we needed to collate them into a poster of some sort. Towards the beginning of lockdown she, along with her husband, had recreated, rather successfully I thought, Judith beheading Holofernes by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1530).

    This is now one of a huge number of ‘ways to keep ourselves entertained and occupied during this period of lockdown. This got me thinking about my industry, the subject of art and culture, and eventually, onto our school curriculum, a long-held annoyance of mine. Probably because I was not too good at the sciences or numbers.

    I began to think about what we have already done, and what we may continue doing as lockdown eases, what will provide us, not just with distraction, but with meaning. 

    We have seen online streaming with the Italians singing from their balconies, the Spanish exercising to music and a Russian Ballet company entertaining us all from their own homes. It eventually spread to the usually reserved UK. We now have online bands and choirs, music lessons and art lessons. All these things are creative, collaborative, building trust and encouraging optimism and fostering a sense of purpose as we work towards normality again, whatever that will be. 

    Being creative is something that few of us would say we are, how often do we hear people say, ‘oh, I am no good at art, I don’t understand it”. Nobody said that when they were taking home that painting of the tree with the massive sun all over it to proudly put on the fridge at home, aged 5. No, we were positively praised by teacher and parents alike, we had not yet been told we were no good at art because we were not as good as Millais or Canaletto, we had not been told that the arts are not a real job, pointless studying them, pointless getting a qualification in them, it will be better to concentrate on science or maths. To this day I have not had to use trigonometry or a quadratic equation (luckily). 

    In moments of crisis things change, things evolve, when we are being pushed we have to make decisions, to reinvent ourselves. It is in these moments that our long forgotten creative side is activated, when the right hemisphere of the brain begins to work and starts to generate new ideas and create different solutions to this new problem. When we are in this new situation, creativity is what will allow us to adapt to change. In short, in times of crisis, our best ally is creativity.

    I have not yet seen, but I am not saying there isn’t one, a group of people streaming the resolution of a particularly taxing maths problem and it going viral. 

    Art shops have enjoyed an increase in demand and online art classes have taken off. There are more people painting, crocheting, sewing, sculpting and drawing than before lockdown.

    Being creative can help you become a better problem solver in many areas of your life and work. Creativity helps you look at things differently and makes you better able to deal with uncertainty. Studies have shown that thinking creatively, you are better able to live with uncertainty because you can adapt your thinking to allow for the flow of the unknown.

    I guess what I am ranting about here is, with headlines like “Creative industries are driving economic growth across the UK, on track to create one million new creative industries jobs between 2013 and 2030” why in schools do we have STEM and not STEAM? Is it not time to re look at the national curriculum, first introduced in 1988 (England), and little changed since.  

    We all had to look after the banks with their “little issue” a few years, lets now look after the museums, cinemas, theatres etc. and teach our young to appreciate/use them, be part of them, and even, possibly, show/perform in them. 


  • Margaret Hefferman had some interesting things to say today in conversation with Matthrew Taylor about the capacity of artists to dare to think big, to push for big changes rather than the small incremental adjustments to the status quo. The whole interview is well worth a watch and the section on artists runs from 29:40 to 32:14.

    https://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=T3T9tfVDob-Wg1US&u=/watch%3Fv%3DKZBbiM5UDw4%26feature%3Dem-lbrm

  • If you are interested in supporting this idea you can find more information on The RSA Ideas Wazoku page https://rsa.wazoku.com/#/idea/976319071205476ead4db4985eb74648

    Thanks, Clare

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