"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creativity in Tahoe Part 1: Tahoe lacks a “Creativity Crisis”

“Make it new,” said Ezra Pound, at the forefront of the Modernist writers. But are we still making it new? New York Times asked in a recent “Room for Debate” opinion piece (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/09/15/is-creativity-endangered), Is there a “Creativity Crisis” in America and if so, what is causing it and what can we do about it? Five essays written by experts from various viewpoints responded to these questions. What about in Tahoe – are we suffering a crisis here with stifled creativity possibly caused by nature-deficit disorder or homogenizing marketing or schools focused on standardized tests or management that values repetition over innovation or rural isolation or too much screen time (all theories proposed in the article)?
Technology is both proof of creativity and the crisis’ scapegoat.  Are hours of screen time dulling children’s ability to play and develop creatively?  My writing students at LTCC defended their video games, saying the games allowed them to imagine and respond to and problem solve (all aspects of creativity) situations they wouldn’t otherwise experience. 
Here’s another example (full disclosure – this writer may be biased): Northwoods Magazine will be incorporating an innovative new phone application Augmented Reality (LINK) into its advertisements.  A reader will be able to scan a photograph within the ad and that photo will lead them to a link of a video that augments the ad.  The photo becomes the first frame of the video. This technology represents a coordination of an individual’s idea-making and a group’s skills to manage and manifest creative processes.  
However, this example brings up a challenge specific to Tahoe regarding creativity: our isolated geography and population.  “Cities are the true fonts of creativity,” according to Richard Florida, global research professor at New York University and senior editor of The Atlantic. Cities provide an estuary of different people and ideas that mix and marble each other, inspiring creativity and new ideas.  Do you think our small size and relative geographic isolation hinder the ability to create in Tahoe? 
One thing going for us is our closeness with Nature, according to the Nature-Deficit Theory of the creativity crisis.  Tahoe-ites are pre-selected for a strong connection with nature.  I believe we find inspiration and a quiet peace in the place we live, both qualities necessary for being creative. And although small, Tahoe enjoys a flow of people from other places who live here as well or visit, and bring their influences.
And here’s two more qualities Tahoe excels at that seem integral to creativity: risk taking and independence. According to Cecilia Conrad, Vice President of the MacArthur Fellow program, “…creativity thrives in an environment where individuals have the freedom to devote time and effort to ideas and projects that may not have an immediate payoff…” Sound like anyone you know in Tahoe?
If it’s got anything to do with opportunity, we have plenty of creativity in Tahoe. I believe Tahoe-ites come up with brilliant ideas all the time.  An important part of creativity is making the idea happen.  This manifestation often requires a collaboration with others. “In fact, creativity is a social process,” writes Florida. From innovative sales techniques to community-building festivals and events to new ambitious businesses and creative approaches to protect the environment, Tahoe has the stimulating atmosphere, motivated intelligent people, and the natural inspiration to create new ideas and vision.

What makes you creative? Do you have an example of creativity in Tahoe? Send in your comments to participate in this series on creativity in Tahoe. Next up, meeting the Creatives. (Originally published in Northwoods Magazine, 10/14)

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