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November 5, 2010

A Discussion About Creativity

THIS POST includes a half-hour (audio) discussion about "the creative mind in science and in art." The participants were Rudolf Arnheim, Margaret Mead, and Milton C. Nahm, and the moderator, Lyman Bryson.

This is a radio program produced in 1958 from a series titled The Creative Mind in the Twentieth Century, from the PBS-NPR Forum Network.

The "player" is embedded below on this page. There is no picture, as it is from a radio program, but you can listen to it. You can skip now down to the embedded program, or first read (just below) some information on the participants and on the subject they discuss, plus some excerpts I've extracted from the discussion, if you are interested.



Professor of the Psychology of Art at Harvard University
American, born in Germany

Photo of Rudolf Arnheim

MARGARET MEAD (1901-1978)
American Cultural Anthropologist
Photo of Margaret Mead

MILTON C. NAHM (1903-1991)
Professor of Philosophy at Bryn Mawr College, and author of
many books, at least one of which you can read online (The Artist as Creator)
Photo of Milton C. Nahm
LYMAN BRYSON (1888-1959)



"We're going to look at the problem of how in a society like ours -- how in any society -- we can discover the conditions that make creative work more likely ... a little better harvesting of whatever genius we can produce in our population, and I suppose that problem...can be put this way: Since we know that in other times and in other places, there has been a high productivity of creativeness in art and science and other forms of expression, can we locate those conditions and describe them, and if we can describe them have we any real confidence in our capacity to reproduce them in our own society?" -- Lyman Bryson in the Introduction


(These are from my own notes that I took while listening to the conversation and any comments in brackets are mine - J.V.)

"I think that the greatest advantage you can give to your creative child...is to treat every child with the expectation of his creativity. You need an atmosphere of the expectation of creativity for all children, so that those few children [who are indeed capable of being creative] can flourish." - R. Arnheim

"One thing which I welcome very much is that we are beginning to think when we talk about creativity of something which is beyond the arts and even beyond the sciences. That is, that when you see nowawadays businessmen getting interested in creativity, and trying to train their executives in creativity. Now they are not after the arts, obviously. They may be using the arts or they may think they can get their cues from the arts, but what they are really after is a kind of alertness of mind, in a very general sense, which is not even served very well by technique. I don't think we ought to emphasize technique too much. What you need is that openness of response and that accessibility of your resources, which somehow doesn't seem to be there. You train these children about all sorts of techniques and they're technically very good about all sorts of things. What you don't have is that access to their spontaneity which make their work different from the work of other people." - R. Arnheim

"It seems to me that what we ought really to do is to subject them all to the same kind of technical discipline (or within the areas of their interest), and from this hope that the originality would come." -- M. Nahm

"[I]n the arts and in the sciences and so on, what we are not asking for is imitation. What we're asking for is in some sense for the creative mind to go past the mere copying, past the mere imitating, past the mere technique, although we all agree, I think, that this would be a condition for it." - M. Nahm

"There's a great danger in the misinterpretation of the word "spontaneity," to mean that somehow one should be "untrammeled" by tradition.....We tend to see tradition as something that's limiting, instead of being the thing that makes it possible to create." - M. Mead

"If we can make people see that the core of a society is genuine originality -- and this, it seems to me, is the primary function of fine art....That is, what the fine artist does is really very interesting because he does give us a picture of his society, but he does so much more -- and if we could take our audience and our critics and the people who have, to use a technical phrase, who have possibilities for aesthetic experiences...If we could make them see that originality is a value in itself, and then can be used to make other people creative, and use this technique in another way, then I think we could solve it....." - L. Bryson

"What is truly creative must come out of the experience of the creator -- his own experience, not something he got second-hand. That makes it valid. This is artistic honesty." - L. Bryson

This is a radio program produced in 1958 from a series titled The Creative Mind in the Twentieth CenturyFrom the PBS-NPR Forum Network
Audio Only. 29 minutes,19 seconds

(Note: The woman, of course, is Margaret Mead, the man with the German accent is Rudolf Arnheim, and the other man is Milton C. Nahm)
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There are videos on Creativity in the Thinking About Art Library.

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LDahl said...

So happy to see your computer problems may be over and you are putting your articles up again!

Jean Vincent said...

L, I'm glad to be back, too. I only missed posting during one month, and I learned a lot that will be helpful in the future while fixing the computer problem, so it wasn't a bad tradeoff. I would never have guessed that I'd ever take a computer apart and replace the hard drive, but I did, and after that I bought another hard drive and put it in an enclosure and am using that for once-a-month backups. I'm running ChkDsk once a month, too, and keeping a log of whatever maintenance-checking I do (disk defragmenting, registry repair, ChkDsk), so I'll be sure and do it regularly. So I feel pretty secure right now about the computer (though I had no idea how close the computer was to ruination before it went belly up). - Jean

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