Monday, September 11, 2017

Art in the Arts Administration Workplace

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on................"

We don't need a lot of studies to confirm that art impacts people, their moods, their energy, their productivity, and generally a wide variety of aspects of life.

Music is the art form that easily comes to mind when thinking about changing moods and feelings.  Whether you want to relax and sleep, or feel energized and alive, or any other state of being, there is music that can readily take you where you want to go, or at least, facilitate that journey.

So a recent study confirming that playing upbeat music - in this case the opening movement of Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, helped listeners in the generation of creative ideas, wasn't exactly surprising.

"Creativity is one of the most important cognitive skills in our complex, fast-changing world," write Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson of Australia's University of Technology Sydney. "Music listening can be easily integrated into daily life, and may provide an innovative means to facilitate creative cognition in an efficient ways in various scientific, educational, and organizational settings."

And virtually any kind of music that was upbeat would likely work.  But, it turns out this works for divergent thinking (the creative part of generating innovative ideas), but not on the convergent thinking (the process of taking the ideas and then making them work).

"Performance used to measure "divergent thinking," the ability to use one's imagination to come up with new concepts, or combine old ones in unexpected, fruitful ways.
Additional tests measured "convergent thinking," the part of the creative process in which all those crazy ideas are narrowed down to find the optimal solution to a problem.    
The key result: Compared to working in silence, listening to the uplifting Vivaldi was "associated with an increase in divergent thinking." Convergent thinking, on the other hand, was not significantly affected by background music." 

So the question looms - why don't we play music in the workplace when we want to generate new ideas?

The simple answer is that as we all work on our screens, largely independently from each other for much of the day, we all have the option with ear buds to listen to whatever we want as we work.  No need to pipe music to every office or cubicle, perhaps annoying some people who are involved in convergent thinking.

Of course, sharing an artistic experience as a member of a collective audience is a different level of experience than just listening by yourself.

This got me thinking about the extent and scope to which we, as arts administrators, avail ourselves of art in the workplace.  All kinds of art.  Music is easy to access.  Dance and theater and visual art is easy to access from the internet, but all of those mediums require full on attention whereas music can weave its magic in the background - though, of course, focus yields perhaps a richer experience.

It's too bad we can't have live performances (of rehearsals or curation) from each discipline come to our organization offices once in awhile as a stimulus; a way of sharing across disciplines the creative process and result.  For arts organizations to be able to see how those in other disciplines approach the creative process and see the result (in progress) would be, I think, instructive, informative and exhilarating.  And it would likely help jumpstart the creative process for all of us.  As well as build bridges to disciplines outside our own.

But that isn't practical on any level really.  What might be practical, at least as a one off experimental pilot project, would be to video tape (pretty easy to do on a semi-professional basis today with off the shelf equipment and software - and probably easy to do with an iPhone) short theater, dance, and music rehearsals, and visual curation of exhibits and make those available to the entire arts community to view on demand.  Arts organizations might be able to pick and choose between a variety of such tapes, and schedule viewing as an organization wide staff group exercise - using it to rif off of to stimulate the creative juices.  It would have the added  bonus of familiarizing various segments of our field with what other disciplines are doing, how they do it, and the differences and similarities for each in the creative process.  (And IMHO each of our disciplines operate too much in their own silos with precious little interaction and intersection with the other disciplines.  Much is lost by that reality).

(And yes, I know, it's easy to access all kinds of theatrical and dance performances online, as well as countless visual artworks and exhibitions).  But what I had in mind, was not just the finished product, but capturing the process of getting to the finished product, and sharing that with each other.  I would think that even the process of taping the creative process would have some benefits to the originating organization.  And certainly, with some audio narration, of potential value to the rest of the field.

Music doubtless can help you to be more creative and innovative.  I think dance, theater and visual art could too, especially for us as a field.  And I would like to figure out some way we could harness that on a collective basis for each of our organizations.  But if that's not in the cards, I guess if nothing else, you can put on the earphones and google up some Vivaldi.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit