Hey, Where’d Your Creativity Go? (a personal answer)

Over the past eight years, I’ve found myself designing fewer and fewer plays and instead devoting more and more professional time to administration/leadership/management and to research, all by my own choice.  It has now been two years since I last designed lighting (for a production of Anon(ymous) depicted at left). In that time, and especially recently, I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, “Don’t you miss it?”  “Don’t I miss what?” I reply. “The creativity.”  The short answer is “No, not at all.”  The only slightly longer answer follows.

Yesterday, I sat in my new office for the first time following my sabbatical and since moving from the position of the Director of the School of Theatre and Film at ASU to that of a full time faculty member in the school with a focus on arts entrepreneurship.  It’s a small room, maybe nine by ten, that I had painted tangerine.  It’s a repurposed dorm, so there are two closets, into which, behind closed doors, I placed the filing cabinet and shelves of scripts that I haven’t broken open in a long time.  There’s a simple table on which I can put my Mac Book, a Pilates ball for me to sit on, and two green chairs for students or guests that I purchased from Crate and Barrel to contrast with the tangerine walls.  Built-in shelves hold a few pictures of my kids and the books I need for research and teaching the arts entrepreneurship class.

It’s a spare room, and it’s a blank canvas.  Today, I painted on that canvas; I created.

I didn’t create a painting, and I didn’t produce a play, or design lighting cues for it.  I created curriculum.  I sat in my office and collated research materials I had been gathering for months into material for the first class meeting of my first formal class in arts entrepreneurship.  I made connections between ideas and events, selected material, wrote several paragraphs of synthesis, and developed a structure for those first 75 minutes of face-to-face time with undergraduate students from every arts discipline as well as design and business.   Faculty across my university and elsewhere are likely undertaking similar creative activities to benefit their students and their disciplines.

Because the field of arts entrepreneurship is young, there is much original, creative research to be done, and I will be doing that too in my little tangerine office in a repurposed dorm.   (There is also more research to be done in lighting design process and I’ll no doubt continue to do some of that too.) My point is this: you can’t miss something that’s still right in front of you.   Creative opportunities abound; one need only be alert to their possibilities.

So, when someone asks me, “Hey Linda, where’d your creativity go?” I’ll respond, “To a little orange room in a repurposed dorm in Tempe, Arizona.”*

–       Linda

* Hey – if you want to come visit, we’re hosting a really cool arts entrepreneurship symposium April 1-2.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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6 Responses to Hey, Where’d Your Creativity Go? (a personal answer)

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  5. Natalie says:

    I recently became aware of my lack of musical practice and started to wonder if it made me less of a musician or artist. Striking a balance between aspiring arts administrator and practicing musician has been close to impossible for the last year and a half; however I feel that my creativity has significantly impacted my study, research, and “creations” in the last year. While the arts have remained the center of my day-to-day life my intentions have shifted from creation or interpretation to enabling and sharing. I miss making music; however realizing my passion for entrepreneurship in the arts invigorates me and being surrounded by peers who seek the same study gives me hope. Recently, a friend asked my opinion of a project admitting that he felt biased because he was a musician. Reading this request made me suddenly realize that people may not identify with me as an artist anymore. I find this very troubling because I feel that good arts administration that enables artists to flourish in the public eye is not only attributed to good business skills, but also stems from an understanding of the art and why it is important. I believe the former is achieved through experience within the arts, and thus I still identify as an artist.

    • lindaessig says:

      As do I, although I self-identify as a lighting designer rather than a musician. I will always be a lighting designer. It is my “discipline,” in Howard Gardner’s sense of the word. I don’t think one gives up that identity even if one’s creative energies shift focus — or at least I don’t. Thanks for your comment!

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